West England Bylines has gathered together a catalogue of the pollution of our rivers and beaches by English and Welsh water companies more interested in shareholder dividend than in serving the public. Please click on the links to find out more. Let us know of any sewage incidents in your area – [email protected]. If it’s not in the West England area (Gloucestershire and surrounding counties), we’ll share it with our other Bylines Network newspapers.
Latest … December 2023
5 December 2023 – iNews: Environment watchdog failed to visit 90% of toxic water spills last year.
Freedom of Information data obtained by the charity WildFish, and shared with i, showed there has been a significant drop off in in-person inspections of water pollution since the Covid-19 pandemic.
4 December 2023 – BBC News: Raw sewage ‘cover-up’ at Windermere World Heritage Site.
IF YOU DIDN’T SEE IT, WATCH IT BACK ‘The Water Pollution Cover-up’ 4 December 8pm!
Water companies can make sewage pollution disappear from the official figures, a BBC Panorama investigation has revealed. Leaked records suggest one firm, United Utilities, wrongly downgraded dozens of pollution events, including at a famed English lake in north-west England. The Environment Agency signed off all the downgrades without attending any of the incidents. United Utilities denies misreporting pollution.
4 December 2023 – Liberal Democrats: Lib Dems table new law to compensate sewage sickness victims.
The Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill which would provide compensation to those who have suffered illness as a result of sewage in the waterways of England and Wales. The new amendment comes in the wake of government statistics released on Friday, which found a sharp rise in the number of bathing water sites rated as “poor quality.” The Bill comes before Parliament on Monday 4th December.
1 December 2023 – Surrey Heath Borough Council: Council question Thames Water executive following Camberley sewage works incident.
Surrey Heath Borough Council has secured a commitment from Thames Water that an imported sewage incident of the type which blighted many Camberley residents’ summer will never be allowed to happen there again. However, the Council continues to press Thames Water to make a meaningful financial contribution to a community project in the local area by way of compensation. Thames Water imported sewage sludge into their Camberley Sewage Treatment Works earlier this year, holding it in open tanks during one of the hottest summers on record, causing a foul smell severely affecting the local community.
27 November 2023 – Sky News: Bill payers to stump up cost of £100m campaign urging public to use less water.
Regulator Ofwat said households could save up to £500 a year by cutting their water use. But critics expressed scepticism and said customers should not be picking up the tab.
@SOSWhitstable on X: The water industry leak 1.06 trillion litres of water per year but @Ofwat are going to spend £100m of our money telling us that we’re the problem.
22 November 2023 – The Argus: Southern Water slammed for ‘tsunami of human waste’ in Sussex sea.
Eastbourne Borough Council said Southern Water, the company providing water and sewage facilities to large swathes of the county, including Eastbourne needs to “urgently improve water quality”. The council criticised the water company for discharging water containing sewage into the sea in Eastbourne for a “staggering” 434 hours last year.
23 November 2023 – The Guardian: Raw sewage discharged into Chichester harbour for over 1,200 hours in a month.
Campaigners say Southern Water outflows into protected wildlife site are an ‘assault on the environment’. The protected harbour in West Sussex, which is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), has been subjected to the discharges since 24 October.
21 November 2023 – The Guardian: Most inland bathing spots in England have unsafe pollution levels, report finds.
In a survey of a representative sample of popular swimming and water sports locations, 60% were found to have pollution at unsafe levels, the annual report from the campaign group [Surfers Against Sewage] said.
20 November 2023 – BBC News: Wye salmon faces extinction in 6 years – campaigners.
Pollution is threatening Atlantic salmon in the River Wye, campaigners say. The Wye Salmon Association believes they could disappear within six years. It has recorded its lowest ever catch numbers. It wants gene banking, captive breeding and cryogenic preservation. In May, the river’s status was downgraded to “unfavourable declining” by Natural England.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Yet another river system decimated by the three wise monkeys of ecocide, greed, regulatory failure and political indifference.
20 November 2023 – The Guardian: Defra’s failure to protect and restore water bodies ‘unlawful’, high court rules.
The lawyers presented the court with evidence that the Costa Beck is failing for fish under the Water Framework Directive regulations. One of the reasons for that, they argued, is sewage pollution – Yorkshire Water’s “storm” sewage overflow at Pickering treatment works discharged into the Costa Beck more than 250 times in 2020 and more than 400 times in 2019.
17 November 2023 – Cornwall Live: Over 30 Cornwall beaches on sewage pollution alert after bad weather.
According to environmental campaign charity Surfers Against Sewage and its water pollution alerts app, 34 beaches from Bude in north Cornwall to Kingsand in south east Cornwall have been issued with pollution alerts.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Did I mention that @SouthWestWater has to be one of if not the most incompetent WC in the country and believe me there’s some pretty stiff competition.
18 November 2023 – Paul Taylor on Facebook (Fairford): Thames Water data shows the Fairford Sewage Treatment Works has now been discharging untreated sewage into the river for over 500 hours since 28th October!
Their website previously said they planned to upgrade the works by 2025 but now it has been updated to say they plan to complete sometime between 2025 – 2030. Based on this statement we could have 6+ more years of this, assuming it ever gets done.
17 November 2023 – iNews: Welcome to Sewage Island (formerly the Isle of Wight).
Heavy rainfall has brought the Isle of Wight’s sewage problem into sharp focus. i visits the island to meet the locals blighted by waste. Analysis by i has found that since the island was hit with a month’s worth of rain on 25 October, sewage has been dumped into the Gurnard bay from two pipes for a total of 472 hours and 247 hours respectively. Other parts of the island experienced a similar deluge.
17 November 2023 – The Guardian: UK environment secretary took donation from funder of climate sceptic thinktank.
Steve Barclay accepted £3,000 donation from Michael Hintze, a key funder of Global Warming Policy Foundation. The thinktank focuses on questioning policy on the climate crisis, and was set up by the former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson, who has said that climate change is not a threat.
17 November 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: United Utilities set to pay out more in dividends than profits.
So less than 24 hours after discovering @unitedutilities spent up to 70 days illegally dumping sewage into lake Windermere the company announces it is paying shareholders a dividend bigger than the company profits And @Ofwat does what exactly?
15 November 2023 – @SOSWhitstable on X: Sandown, Isle of Wight.
There are two seperate sewage outfalls here and each has been spewing out untreated sewage since the 24th of October. 1054 hours of sewage in 3 weeks. Perhaps local MP @IoWBobSeely would like to intervene and tell @SouthernWater what he thinks?
14 November 2023 – The Guardian: Alarm raised over water firm job of new environment secretary’s wife.
Steve Barclay married to executive at Anglian Water, which is under investigation for potential illegal dumping of raw sewage. Tim Farron, the rural spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Ministers’ spouses do of course have the right to their own careers, but I do worry about the possible conflict of interest here for the man charged with forcing the water companies to clean up their act. We need to make sure the secretary of state is fully committed to doing everything in his power to stop the sewage scandal.”
13 November 2023 – Farmers Guide: Steve Barclay appointed new environment secretary as Coffey quits.
Thérèse Coffey has resigned in the midst of a Cabinet reshuffle, following the sacking of Suella Braverman as home secretary.
Ed: Updated our cover picture. See also East Anglia Bylines: Sewage minister’s scandal: wife is water company boss.
11 November 2023 – The Guildford Dragon News: Lib Dems Condemn Thames Water Executives’ ‘Shameful’ £2m Pay Packages.
Guildford Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Zöe Franklin is complaining of: “Shameful excesses at the top of Thames Water, while sewage continues to pollute our waterways and crumbling infrastructure once again leaves thousands of local people without water.”
10 November 2023 – Brighton and Hove News: Children face wading through raw sewage on route to school.
Foul water has been filmed pouring out through manhole covers in Winfield Avenue, by Patcham High School, this week. The road is also used by some children going to Patcham Infant School and Patcham Junior School. Parents and residents are urging councillors to take up their complaints with Southern Water and Brighton and Hove City Council.
11 November 2023 – The Observer: ‘Shocking and sad’: photographer’s project reveals wildlife lost to pollution in Yorkshire’s River Wharfe.
Mark Barrow returned to the site of an earlier shoot five years later and found aquatic life devastated by sewage. What he found shocked him. The water was cloudy with pollution and the numbers of grayling, with their distinctive red fins and pewter scales, were reduced to pockets of no more than 30 or 40.
10 November 2023 – @watervole3 tweets: “… summary of volumes of sewage spills is available in my report”.
Downloadable from https://drive.google.com/file/d/1GeNORkOtEFyatbmfgXcz5VAN8PcPJqX0/view…
10 November 2023 – The Guardian: Thames Water pumped at least 72bn litres of sewage into Thames since 2020.
Lib Dems call for water companies to be more transparent with their data on sewage spills. Munira Wilson, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, has said “Thames Water should be disbanded and replaced by a ‘public good company’ … The government is standing idly by whilst our rivers are poisoned and water firm execs pocket millions.”
Ed: See also The Standard: ‘Environmental crimes’: Thames Water pumps 72bn litres of sewage into Thames since 2020.
And: Teddington Town: RIVER THAMES SEWAGE SHOCK. Mogden near Twickenham … 17.1bn litres of sewage … nature reserve, rare wildlife and areas where people swim and boat.
2 November 2023 – East Anglian Bylines: England’s failed water companies: time to cut the crap.
England’s waterways are badly polluted. The water companies plans to tackle the problem are inadequate. We analysed the evidence, using an accounting methodology known as sustainable cost accounting. This shows that all of England’s water companies are environmentally insolvent. In other words, they are unable to raise the required financial capital to continue in operation and meet the requirement that they deliver clean water to people in England while avoiding pollution of waterways, rivers and beaches from untreated storm overflows. Such is the scale of their deficiency that we suggest that they be nationalised.
8 November 2023 – Daily Mail: Water companies splash out £10 million on bosses’ pay despite outrage over sewage scandal.
United Utilities discharged the most sewage and paid out most base pay.
Severn Trent paid £3.5 million in bonuses to two executives last year.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Your local river might be full of sewage, you might have spent all weekend collecting bottled water from a supermarket carpark but we’re all right Jack so…
8 November 2023 – The Times: UK water bosses took bonuses despite sewage crisis.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “UK water bosses took bonuses despite sewage crisis Ofwat confirms that the heads of five companies accepted bumper pay.” There is someone at @ofwat that actually knows what’s going on isn’t there, isn’t there?
8 November 2023 – The Guardian: Ban bonuses to water company bosses, Ofwat told.
Regulator under pressure to act after finding executive payouts at three English suppliers were not justified. Water suppliers have been repeatedly criticised for paying out large sums to bosses who have presided over leaky infrastructure and dumped sewage in Britain’s waterways.
7 November 2023 – University of Birmingham: ‘Biodiversity time machine’ provides insights into a century of loss.
AI analysis shows pollution levels, extreme weather events and increasing temperatures devastate biodiversity in freshwater lakes. Researchers from the University of Birmingham, in collaboration with Goethe University in Frankfurt, used sediment from the bottom of a lake in Denmark to reconstruct a 100-year-old library of biodiversity, chemical pollution, and climate change levels. This lake has a history of well-documented shifts in water quality, making it a perfect natural experiment for testing the biodiversity time machine.
5 November 2023 – @WindrushWasp on X: Thames Water’s latest victims – its own staff.
Thames Water launches redundancy consultation & seeks to cut up to 300 jobs as it struggles to manage mountains of debt previous owner, Australian firm, Macquarie, saddled the company with, while paying out enormous dividends to shareholders.
6 November 2023 – Oxford Rivers Project: Welcome to the revived Oxford Rivers Project (previously #endsewagepollution mid-Thames) newsletter!
1. What extra information do you want to know about your local river?
2. Bathing water status applications submitted for Wallingford and Henley
3. Thames Water “Your Water, Your Say” meeting, 30th November 2023
4. Get involved: River Action meeting, protect rare wetland plants and more…
5. News round-up
6 November 2023 – @DrAlexFord tweets: Now 13 days non-stop untreated discharges into internationally important marine protected site in Langstone Harbour.
Same for Isle of Wight’s UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Untreated sewage and still ongoing for Southsea Seafront (271 hours) and numerous other CSOs around Portsmouth, Gosport, Chichester and Isle of Wight. It’s the winter season when we offload our domestic chemicals and human pathogens on the environment.
5 November 2023 – BBC News: Man contracts sepsis after paddle in River Kennet.
A man says he was left fighting for his life after having a paddle in the River Kennet. Gordon Pepper, who lives in Wiltshire, was in the sepsis ward at hospital 48 hours after his dip. The water quality of the Kennet has been under scrutiny by campaign groups because of untreated sewage being dumped there.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Did I mention the River Kennet between Hungerford and Newbury has been downgraded to ‘Poor’ ecological status? The Kennet is a chalk stream, 1 of only 225 in the entire world.
1 November 2023 – @RiverActionUK: Thanks to @alextomo @Channel4News for highlighting the “less obvious, sinister effect” of Storm Ciarán.
The massive amount of s**t being discharged into our rivers and beaches from a broken system overwhelmed by high rainfall. Channel 4 video.
1 November 2023 – River Action: Storm Ciarán: Britain’s rivers at risk of saturation from deadly cocktail of pollutants.
CEO of River Action James Wallace says that the last decade and a half has seen a systemic collapse in environmental protection with regulatory agencies defunded and regulations designed to protect rivers from pollution deliberately not enforced.
3 November 2023 2pm – RIBA/SAS: RIBA Cornwall: beach clean and social at National Trust Godrevy.
Join us for a beach clean in Cornwall organised by RIBA South West in conjunction with Surfers Against Sewage and the National Trust at Godrevy, Gwithian, Hayle, TR27 5ED.
1 November 2023 – Wealden District Council: Local authorities continue to put pressure on Southern Water.
The Southern Water Stakeholder Group, initiated and co-ordinated by Wealden District Council and including representatives from more than 24 local authorities from Chichester to Folkestone, is also to write to the Secretary of State for the Environment calling on more resources for the Environment Agency to hold the water company to account.
30 October 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Your @ThamesWater sewage dumping report for the morning of Monday 30th Oct 2023.
47 days and counting that’s all I’m saying Acting Interim Co-Chief Executive Officer, 47 days and counting.
20 October 2023 – guildfordwaverleygreen on Instagram: Dame Jennie Jones in the House of Lords.
@greenjjnews – “If the #WaterCompanies pollute, then they should be fined. The consumers shouldn’t pay those #Fines“. The idea that the #Public should pay to fix #SewageDumping and crumbling #Infrastructure – that these companies have allowed just to increase #PrivateProfit for #Shareholders – is clearly nonsense.
28 October 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Thames Water’s prospectus, basically a loan application form, is staggeringly revealing.
Would you lend £15,000,000,000 to a company that is already £21,703,500,000 in debt?
26 October 2023 – The Guardian: Ofwat warns over financial health of four water suppliers in England.
Thames Water and Southern Water among firms urged to take action to secure long-term finances. The water regulator for England and Wales has raised a red flag over the financial health of companies supplying more than 20 million customers in the south-east of England, amid growing public anger over the industry’s record on services and pollution.
Ed: Is it a coincidence that these are the two water companies of which Macquarie was or is a major investor?
26 October 2023 – @SOSWhitstable on X: The Isle of Wight today, the most polluted location in the SE.
8 ongoing sewage releases, ranging between 27 and 60 hours. In Cowes, 3 are happening at once. Why is @IoWBobSeely not publicly berating @SouthernWater for what they’re doing to that beautiful island?
27 October 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “Any increase in bills can only be for new investment not about things that should have been done in the past.” SoS @theresecoffey.
@Ofwat admit it, for 34 years we’ve paid all the money needed to build a properly functioning sewage system. Why are WCs asking us to pay again?
27 October 2023 – The Guardian: England to diverge from EU water monitoring standards.
Campaigners fear less rigorous methods could lead to more pollution in rivers and waterways. While in the EU, England was covered by the water framework directive (WFD), which meant a national chemical and ecological survey of rivers was conducted annually. After Brexit, the WFD was transposed into English law but the government removed the requirement to conduct annual tests.
27 October 2023 – Sky News: Down the drain: What went wrong with Britain’s water system?
If you were going to design Britain’s sewage system from scratch today, the one we have, to put it mildly, isn’t the design you’d pick. But for most of the country, it’s simply too late. Most urban areas have [combined] systems that “bake in” sewage spills pretty much forever.
Ed: However the proportion of our sewerage network which according to Water UK is ‘combined’ is only 25% which is NOT ‘most’.
23 October 2023 – iNews: Cumbria and Cornwall to miss out on clean river bathing spaces following new Defra rules.
Some local river groups are having to withdraw applications for official bathing status after Defra introduced new rules on the number of bathers. Rivers in Cornwall and Cumbria no longer meet the criteria to apply for the status after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) introduced a requirement for a minimum number of swimmers to visit the waterway. It means the rivers will miss out on additional checks to rid them of pollution. Campaigners in Cumbria said the Government change made it “probably impossible for any upland river to achieve bathing status”.
24 October 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: NEWFLASH: Following High Court judgement @WildFishCons has put govt and regulators on notice.
1. WCs not customers should pay to fix the sewage system.
2. @EnvAgency must now review all WC sewage dumping permits.
3. @Ofwat must now enforce “exceptional circumstances” law.
Ed: Link to WildFish announcement.
14 October 2023 – The Guardian: ‘I won’t pay for them to pollute my river’: why a water bills boycott in England is growing.
Angler Mike Deacon is among a growing number of customers refusing to pay water companies as they protest against sewage spillages and contamination.
Ed: ‘Boycott Water Bills’ is a group of individuals who had enough of paying water companies to pollute our waterways and seas – so we stopped paying!
21 October 2023 – @WindrushWasp on X: This beautiful limestone stream in Oxfordshire is being destroyed by water company pollution.
@thameswater and the Environment Agency simply lets them get on with it – again – With sound.
8 October 2023 – Kent and Surrey Bylines: SOS Whitstable: Is public ownership of water the answer?
SOS Whitstable rally against sewage polluting our seas. The author looks at solutions.and asks if public ownership is the right answer?
20 October 2023 – @SOSWhitstable on X: Water companies have submitted business plans for 2025-30 to @Ofwat.
Astonishingly, @SouthernWater have proposed a 66% increase in bills. 26% higher than any other company. It would make their bills the highest in the country. Utterly disgraceful and with no justification.
19 October 2023 – BBC News: Welsh Water admits illegally spilling sewage for years.
Welsh Water has admitted illegally spilling untreated sewage at dozens of treatment plants for years. The admission came after the BBC presented the water company with analysis of its own data. One of their worst performing plants is in Cardigan in west Wales.
18 October 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “UK river littered with plastic and sewage in shocking footage”.
Beneath British Waters – Our Freshwater Planet: Ongoing daily problem at Stanley Ferry on River Calder (Yorkshire).
16 October 2023 – Jason Periera on X: Spill on River Tean in Staffordshire causes dangerous phosphate levels.
8 miles below todays slurry spill on the river Tean, and just before the Tean joins the Dove this is the phosphate reading, phosphate testers max out at 2.50 ppm. All eyes on EA now.
04 October 2023 – British Canoeing: British Canoeing supports the End Sewage Pollution Manifesto.
British Canoeing is part of a coalition united by the ambition to End Sewage Pollution and recover the UK’s rivers, lakes and seas. Chantelle Grundy, British Canoeing’s Access and Environment Lead, said: “The huge public outcry to the sewage scandal has seen the wheels of change begin to turn. Our younger paddlers are at risk of getting sick doing what they love most.”
04 October 2023 – Surfers Against Sewage (SAS): The End Sewage Pollution Manifesto.
Our five point plan for making the UK’s waters healthy and safe again. Enforce the law; Stop pollution for profit; Prioritise high risk pollution; Empower a nature led approach; Reveal the truth.
02 October 2023 – ITV News: United Utilities warns bills will rise to fund scheme tackling pollution and sewage-dumping.
The water provider announced its new five-year plan on Monday 2 October to improve the cleanliness of the North-West’s rivers and seas. The company say the £13.7 billion project, which begins in 2025, will provide more jobs and boost the regions economy. However, United Utilities have warned that bills will rise in order to help fund the scheme.
Ed: Why should our bills rise when investors have creamed off profits for decades?
02 October 2023 – European Parliament: Urban wastewater treatment: Parliament to adopt stricter measures.
The report calls for treated wastewater from urban wastewater treatment plants to be reused more widely to prevent water scarcity. MEPs want chemical pollutants (including “forever chemicals”), microplastics, pathogens and antimicrobial resistance to be monitored more.
Ed: If only our Parliament were so forward thinking.
02 October 2023 – The Guardian: English water firms face backlash over plans to ask customers to pay £96bn to cut leaks.
Householders were told they would pay on average £156 a year more by 2030 to pay for the investment into treatment works, sewage outflows and new reservoirs. But campaigners for clean water said customers should not be paying for infrastructure investment that should have already been carried out to comply with companies’ operational permits – for example on discharging raw sewage or maintaining capacity at treatment works.
Ed: This is in effect paying for 30 years of investors profits.
02 October 2023 – BBC News: Water firms want bill rises to cut leaks and spills.
Water companies in England and Wales want bills to increase by £156 a year by 2030 to pay for upgrades and reduce sewage discharges. However, critics say customers should not be asked to foot the bill, arguing water companies have failed to invest adequately since they were privatised more than 30 years ago, with profits going to shareholders instead. Feargal Sharkey: a “breathtakingly catastrophic strategy”.
30 September 2023 – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP): Mythbusters – Water companies are closely monitored.
Water companies were required to monitor their own performance and compliance with their permits in 2010. ‘Operator Self Monitoring’ – like asking motorists to report themselves for speeding? Environment Agency Director John Leyland, talking to Joe Crowley for Panorama in 2021, said: “It’s not my nature to think that people will abuse a system”.
Ed: Is this naïve or irresponsible?
22 September 2023 – University of Oxford: New study finds that sewage release is worse for rivers than agriculture.
Ahead of World Rivers Day (24 September), new research by the University of Oxford reveals that sewage discharge into rivers has a greater impact on water quality, and the animals and plants that live in rivers, than surrounding land use. This has strong implications for the state of UK rivers in light of the recent threats to weaken nutrient neutrality regulations for new housing developments. The findings have been published today in the journals Global Change Biology and Ecological Solutions and Evidence.
24 September 2023 – West England Bylines: WASP: taking the fight to sewage in our waterways.
On 24 September, World Rivers Day. Ashley Smith, of WASP (Windrush Against Sewage Pollution) comments. “You may have noticed that sewage pollution is mainstream now and that pun slips off the keyboard as easily as a CEO slips off the hook for running a water company that appears to build potential illegality into day-to-day working”.
23 September 2023 – Sky News: The UK’s largest lake has turned into ‘a toilet’ – and the ‘disaster is being ‘underplayed’.
Lough Neagh is roughly the size of the Isle of Wight and supplies water to 40% of Northern Ireland’s people. It is a bloom of toxic cyanobacteria known as blue-green algae. On satellite pictures you can clearly see the livid green swathes across miles of the surface. The principle cause is excreta from farms animals, and to a lesser extent humans, leaching into the Lough.
Ed: OK this is Northern Ireland not England or Wales but it’s another example of government neglect.
21 September 2023 – The Guardian: Treated and untreated sewage greatest threat to river biodiversity, says study.
More water company regulations and improvements at treatment plants needed to protect rivers, say authors. The research from the University of Oxford was released on World Rivers Day. No river in England passes tests for chemical or biological pollution, and government targets to improve the water quality in rivers will not be met.
20 September 2023 – Harborough FM [Leicestershire]: CALL FOR WATER FIRMS TO COME CLEAN ON SEWAGE DISCHARGES INTO RIVERS.
The controversial practice to discharge sewage into waterways is permitted in the UK during wet weather, to prevent pipe systems from backing up, although there are calls for water companies to take steps to keep discharges to a minimum. A Motion put forward by councillor Peter James calling for letters to be sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Secretary of State responsible, demanding they order the full disclosure of figures and the environmental impact, was backed by councillors at a meeting this week.
19 September 2023 – Defra Press Office: Government response to House of Lords report on the water industry.
… a Defra spokesperson said: “We take our oversight of the water industry incredibly seriously and firmly disagree with these conclusions”.
Ed: This is complete gaslighting. Many ennvironmental groups strongly disagree. Why should our government issue such misleading statements? Read the House of Lords Committee Report here.
19 September 2023 – 38Degrees Petition Rescue our Rivers: Our rivers are in crisis.
Every single river in England is polluted beyond legal limits, and the rest of the UK’s rivers are also in trouble. Our rivers are not fit to swim or play in, our wildlife is fast disappearing and freshwater is becoming more scarce in the face of the climate emergency.
19 September 2023 – iNews ‘Save our Rivers’: Water bills will rise to pay for sewage clean up as investors do not want to fund it, House of Lords warns.
A focus on keeping water bills low has driven away investors, but ministers are not taking responsibility for the trade off, says the Industry and Regulators Committee. The Lords’ Industry and Regulators Committee said it expected the cost of cleaning up the water industry to fall on consumers, adding that ministers had not done enough to shield vulnerable households from pri. ce rises.
18 September 2023 – iNews ‘Save our Rivers’: Heavy thunder storms send sewage pouring into Thames and tributaries.
Sewage spills took place overnight, while in Swindon discharges have been ongoing for 10 hours or more. Across the capital, 25 overflows dumped sewage into the River Thames, including two situated just metres from the Houses of Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens. By Monday morning, three were still doing so.
13 September 2023 – @RiverActionUK: BREAKING on #NutrientNeutrality: Cross-party Peers have defeated Government plans to unleash house-building sewage pollution in our rivers.
Thank you @greenjennyjones @natalieben @LabourLordsUK @LibDemLords and all those who made this happen.
13 September 2023 – The Guardian: Environment Agency failing to monitor water firms in England, data suggests.
Watchdog is supposed to audit firms yearly to ensure they are not illegally dumping sewage, but 36% of audits since 2010 are missing. The Environment Agency is failing to regularly audit water companies to check they are telling the truth about pollution and illegal sewage dumping in England, the Guardian can reveal.
13 September 2023 – Feargal Sharkey in iNews: When it comes to dumping sewage, water companies don’t seem to understand the word ‘no’.
An interim judgment by the Office of Environmental Protection will rattle government and regulators alike. No! We all know what that word means. Your parents dutifully instructed you on it as a child; we have all had a lifetime of learning and experience re-enforcing its merits. Unless that is you just happen to be the UK government, Ofwat or the Environment Agency (EA).
12 September 2023 – Mirror: Bonus bonanza for water watchdog staff who fail to stop sewage dump in UK rivers and seas.
Ofwat bigwigs got up to an extra £10,000 each for doing their jobs, but the quango has been branded ‘pointless’ for failing to prevent water companies dumping sewage in rivers. Nearly 300 staff at the water watchdog pocketed bonuses last year despite the state of the nation’s rivers and coastlines.
12 September 2023 – The Guardian: ‘Unacceptable’: how raw sewage has affected rivers in England and Wales – in maps.
Hundreds of thousands of raw sewage discharges were recorded last year. These maps show where these were and what the impact is. More than 384,000 discharges of raw sewage were reported by water companies across England and Wales in 2022, official figures show, in what the Rivers Trust has described as “extremely bad news for environmental and human health”.
12 September 2023 – Office for Environmental Protection (OEP): OEP identifies possible failures to comply with environmental law in relation to regulatory oversight of untreated sewage discharges.
The Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) has identified possible failures to comply with environmental law by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency and Ofwat in relation to the regulation of combined sewer overflows (CSOs).
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Following a complaint by @WildFishCons OEP identifies possible failures by @DefraGovUK, @Ofwat & @EnvAgency to comply with sewage environmental laws. All 3 now need to respond to the OEP’s accusations before final judgment.
12 September 2023 – The Guardian: Ministers may have broken law over sewage dumping in England, says watchdog.
Government may be letting firms discharge raw sewage more often than law allows, says Office for Environmental Protection. The findings for the first time point the finger at ministers for not stopping raw sewage discharges into rivers and seas.
10 September 2023 – The Times: Sewage will influence most voters at the next election.
More than half of the public will weigh the government’s handling of sewage spills into how they vote at next year’s election. Polling of 6,000 adults by Survation, a research company, found that discharges into rivers and seas will affect how more than 56 per cent of people vote.
10 September 2023 – SOS Whitstable: Third Annual Protest.
Several special guests will join us in Whitstable on Saturday 23rd September to tell Southern Water that we have had enough of sewage pollution, which continues to negatively impact the north Kent coast. The protest will begin at 3pm on Tankerton Slopes, in front of the white lifeguard hut and just down from the Marine Hotel. Be there for 2:50 to avoid missing the start.
9 September 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Quite an extra ordinary exchange on Thursday between the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset @IanLG_MP and @PennyMordaunt Leader of the House of Commons. It’s claimed the owners of @SouthWestWater have hired lawyers to “threaten the press and parliamentarians”. Oh dear me.
8 September 2023 – Re-Wild Belfast: Algae and poisonous bacteria in Lough Neagh is so bad that it’s killing birds and mammals.
I have lived close to Lough Neagh for 19 years and I have never seen algae like this before- it’s awful.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: And there is no one in government to do a damned thing about any of it.
5 September 2023 – BBC News: Water firms illegally spilled sewage on dry days – data suggests.
Three major water companies illegally discharged sewage hundreds of times last year on days when it was not raining, a BBC investigation suggests.The practice, known as “dry spilling”, is banned because it can lead to higher concentrations of sewage in waterways. Thames, Wessex and Southern Water appear to have collectively released sewage in dry spills for 3,500 hours in 2022 – in breach of their permits.
1 September 2023 – The Guardian: Ex-environment secretary to take role at UK waste firm fined for polluting water.
George Eustice given consultancy job with Augean, which had to pay £36,000 after groundwater contaminated.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: You just wait to see what happens over the next 12 months, rats, ship.
Ed: Does the company ‘Augean’ realise that the Augean Stables were the filthiest in Ancient Greece!
30 August 2023 – @RSPBEngland: LIARS!
@RishiSunak @michaelgove @theresecoffey you said you wouldn’t weaken environmental protections. And yet that’s just what you are doing. You lie, and you lie, and you lie again. And we’ve had enough.
22 August 2023 – Change.Org Petition: Change the way rivers are managed, a single point of responsibility from source to estuary.
To: The Rt Hon Thérèse Coffey MP (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and 1 other.
Philip Yorke says: “We need a completely different value system for managing water. I am proposing that the government fundamentally rethink how water is managed”.
August 2023 Sewage Watch
28 August 2023 – The Guardian: England’s rivers at risk as Michael Gove rips up rules on new housing.
Announcement set to anger environmentalists, but builders say nutrient neutrality laws are exacerbating housing crisis. The decision will spark anger among environmentalists, who say it will further add to water pollution. However, it will please major developers.
26 August 2023 – The Guardian: Growing number of countries consider making ecocide a crime.
Mexico latest country where government is considering passing new laws to criminalise environmental destruction. In Scotland, Labour MSP Monica Lennon is trying to introduce an ecocide bill and will launch a public consultation on the matter in the autumn.
Ed: Is what our water companies are doing to our rivers and beaches not ‘ecocide’?
28 August 2023 – East Anglian Bylines: Anglian Water guilty of greenwashing.
Last autumn, Anglian Water aired an advertising campaign claiming their commitment to preserving clean waterways through the creation of wildlife-friendly wetlands. But, this declaration was met with scepticism due to Anglian Water’s history of sewage dumping.
24 August 2023 – Water UK: … around 87% of treated sludge is recycled to agricultural land as a soil improver?
Sewage sludge is a byproduct of the sewage treatment process. It is formed as a result of solids settling out of the sewage within parts of the treatment process and is typically pumped into tankers and transported to sludge treatment centres for further processing. Sewage sludge has a high calorific value and contains many useful byproducts.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Did you know in the Netherlands regulations around the disposal of treated human waste are so restrictive that it all but bans the spreading of ‘treated sludge’ on ‘agricultural land’ as they simply don’t want the risk of it reentering the food chain in any way whatsoever.
Ed: In 2020 30,000 tons of sludge was imported into UK from the Netherlands.
26 August 2023 – Cornwall Live: Five Cornwall beaches hit by sewage alerts for Bank Holiday weekend.
Beachgoers are being warned to stay out of the water today (Saturday, August 26) in some areas. The beaches impacted are Portmellon, East Looe, Seaton, Mawgan Porth and Haryln Bay.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Traditionally in the UK it would rain on Bank Holiday weekends, in the modern world we just dump sh*t onto our beaches.
25 August 2023 – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) Tweets: Former Environment Secretary [George Eustace] cleared to set up environmental consultancy.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: I tell you what, based on his performance as Secretary of State for the Environment it’s advice that’s simply not worth paying for.
23 August 2023 – Express and Star: Ban sewage discharges over Bank Holiday weekend – Lib Dems.
The Environment Secretary should ban water companies from discharging sewage on popular beaches over the Bank Holiday weekend, the Lib Dems have said. Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Tim Farron said: “The British public should be given a weekend off from swimming in polluted waters”. A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs added: “This is a reckless suggestion that risks the safety of homes and businesses”.
13 August 2023 – West Country Voices: Shaldon water quality warning sign sends out the wrong signals.
Shaldon [in Devon], like many seaside resorts, is struggling with the lack of investment in its water infrastructure. Four combined sewer overflows discharge into the river upstream of the main beach. In 2022, there were nearly 20 alerts, so far in 2023 there have been 8. The local Parish Council which owns the beach operates a warning system in conjunction with the Environment Agency. An illuminated sign in the shelter for the ferry across the river to Teignmouth, gives a red warning advising against bathing. Daily emails from the Environment Agency are checked by the council to ensure that the sign is working. However … the sign was not providing a warning.
20-24 August 2023: CONFERENCE – World Water Week 2023 – Online and in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ed: Maybe our Water Companies should be at this event:
Thursday, 24 August | 11:00-12:30 hrs: Wastewater monitoring and surveillance for sound public health and environmental management
21 August 2023 – Leicester Mercury: ‘Torrent’ of sewage pumped into river at Leicestershire beauty spot.
Sewage has killed all wildlife in a stretch of water at a Leicestershire beauty spot, a parish councillor has claimed. Jim Buck, who sits on Barwell Parish Council, says tissue, sanitary products and condoms have been left behind following discharges from a storm overflow on the River Tweed at the rear of Barwell Park.
19 August 2023 – The Guardian: Fury as national health check of England’s waters faces six year wait.
Assessment that used to happen annually will now take six years despite rising concerns. In 2019, the last time the full assessments took place, just 14% of rivers were in good ecological health and none met standards for good chemical health.
@sascampaigns tweets: Government’s solution to a problem? Hide it and run a mile #SewageScandal.
17 August 2023 – ‘My daughter started to run a fever’: Britain’s swimmers on how sewage changed their summer.
With pollution at high levels and growing worse, some keen swimmers have stopped going in the sea. Many have felt the impact on their mental health – not to mention the pain and discomfort of E coli.
17 August 2023 – BBC News: Egg farmer halves pollution levels.
A conservation group has said an environmental project at a chicken farm in Herefordshire has halved the amount of pollution entering local watercourses. The work has seen 11 pools dug along a 300m-long stretch of land, which loosely resemble a series of canal locks. Together, they slow down water and trap nutrients as run-off from fields makes its way down through the pools.
15 August 2023 – Sussex World: East Sussex residents express concerns as more sewage is dumped on local beaches.
Seaford residents have raised their concerns after sewage was once again being discharged on to the town’s beach while there was no rainfall.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: @SouthernWater dumping sewage outside of an ‘exceptional situation”, surely not?
14 August 2023 – Daily Express: Beautiful UK town plagued by foul smell of raw sewage which has ‘ruined’ residents’ summer.
Health officers from the council claimed that a large tank of untreated sewage that had been moved onto site from other locations as an emergency measure is the source of the smell that has been bothering the locals.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: ‘Emergency measure’? That’s lasted all summer? Which of TW sewage works is failing due to lack of investment?
13 August 2023 – The Guardian: ‘There are more important things than profit’: Giles Bristow of Surfers Against Sewage on the shocking state of our seas.
‘There are more important things than profit’: Giles Bristow of Surfers Against Sewage on the shocking state of our seas. Our seas and rivers have never been in a worse state after years of neglect by the water companies. Now, we routinely check the sewage app alongside the weather. Meet the new CEO of Surfers Against Sewage who plans to turn the tide.
13 August 2023 – Financial Times: Victorian sewers not to blame for England’s pollution, research shows.
Water company excuses for spills debunked by findings that most infrastructure was built in 20th century.
14 August 2023 – Proactive Investors: Northumbrian Water boss stokes sewage row with increased bonus.
Northumbrian Water increased the bonus for its boss by 65% even though it was rated among the six worst water companies by regulator Ofwat. Heidi Mottram was paid a £215,000 bonus, up from £130,000 the year prior, accounts show, despite the company being rated by the regulator as lagging behind on its performance targets.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Clearly there seems to be no issue with the amount of money discharging out of bill payers’ pockets straight into the CEO’s bank account.
11 August 2023 – The Conversation: Don’t just wait for the water firms – three things we can do right now to clean up Britain’s rivers.
1. Less concrete, more soil (but we need legislation)
2. Develop the UK’s ‘kidneys’ (aka wetlands)
3. Individual responsibility (yes wet-wipes!)
12 August 2023 – Ends Report: Coffey gives water companies steer to defer climate and nature initiatives to find savings.
The environment secretary is seeking to steer water companies to delay measures to meet “non-statutory commitments including net zero” to reduce costs on customers, Environment Agency letters sent to water companies have revealed, with green groups warning against moves which could see carbon-intensive anti-pollution measures prioritised.
12 August 2023 – The Observer: ‘An utter disgrace’: 90% of England’s most precious river habitats blighted by raw sewage and farming pollution.
Observer investigation reveals the shocking state of the country’s protected freshwater sites of special scientific interest. Recent government figures show that only 9.9% of these habitats on sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) are in favourable condition. SSSI status encompasses freshwater habitats, along with nearby woodland, marsh and fenland. In comparison 59.4% of protected habitats on coasts and estuaries are in favourable condition.
11 August 2023 – Cornwall Live: Cornwall beach sees South West Water blasted for broken sewage monitor.
The company had the most broken monitors in the UK and one of the beaches affected is at Bude. Beaches at Bude in Cornwall as well as Dawlish in Devon and Lyme Regis in Dorset all have sewage monitors installed which have been faulty in both 2021 and 2022.
10 August 2023 – Extinction Rebellion (XRO) Oxford: Stage 4 in the campaign for an end to sewage dumping.
Extinction Rebellion is supporting the national Dirty Water campaigning coalition that is calling for an end to sewage dumping (1). All Saturday 5th August Dirty Water activities in Oxford were cancelled due to extreme rainfall. Undaunted, Extinction Rebellion is proceeding to repeat Oxford activities on Saturday 12th August, namely: 3-6pm at Donnington Bridge, East Oxford and 3-6pm at Bailey Bridge(2), Port Meadow.
9 August 2023 – The Guardian: Public could receive hundreds of millions as water firms face sewage lawsuit.
Class action legal claim on behalf of 20 million householders in England and Wales could top £800m in compensation. The legal claims allege the water companies have breached competition law by failing to report discharges which would have affected the price they can charge to customers.
@LeighDay_Law tweets: BREAKING: first environmental competition class action case launched on behalf of millions of UK customers overcharged by water companies.
3 August 2023 – Infrastructure Investor: Macquarie’s Bradley on Thames Water.
“There’s nothing in our returns I’m embarrassed about”.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Macquarie owned @thameswater from 2006 – 17 by the time they finished with it they had taken £2.7bn in dividends out of the company £2.2bn in loans left it £10,8bn in debt and a pension fund deficit of £380mn.
7 August 2023 – Wales Online: Surf school forced to cancel lessons as sewage pumped into sea.
An inclusive surf school offering adapted lessons for disabled young people has spoken out after pollution alerts forced them to cancel sessions during a busy summer.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Now what was @DefraGovUK saying about the economic impact study, oh yea, there isn’t one. I wonder why?
7 August 2023 – @MattStaniek on Twitter: Windermere is being used as an open sewer.
Isn’t Windermere beautiful ! Hm, hang on, what’s that smell? Wait, why is the water cloudy ? Windermere is being used as an open sewer. @EnvAgency why is this happening ? Join our fight to Save Windermere from sewage by signing up here.
5 August 2023 – North East Bylines: Raw sewage waterfall at Hazel Grove Beck [Saltburn] today.
Photos show raw sewage flowing out of storm overflows. A resident says: “Why doesn’t the government make them [the water companies] fulfil their contracts by spending profits on repairs, upgrades, and maintenance of the systems rather than dividends for shareholders and huge bonuses for directors?”
5 August 2023 – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP): Corruption Control – Part Five: The Legal Department.
The permits that allow water companies to pollute, the setting of prosecution policy, and decisions to pursue or curtail legal action are rooted in the legal department of an Agency that has failed to bring a single water industry director to court despite serial offending by companies. As an example, Thames Water has over 180 criminal convictions while trial judges have noted that knowledge of the offending went to the top of the organisation and made similar comments about Southern Water.
3 August 2023 – The Guardian: Growing number of sewage monitors in England’s bathing waters ‘broken’.
New analysis of 2022 Environment Agency data by the Liberal Democrats has shown that more than 100 sewage monitors in bathing waters were faulty. Fifty-two of these monitors were found to have been faulty in both 2021 and 2022. The Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesperson, Tim Farron, said: “These profiteering firms have been too busy stuffing their pockets instead of fixing basic infrastructure”.
4 August 2023 – Kent Online: Herne Bay seafront suffers 19 sewage dumps in a month.
Seething residents say “there is always an excuse” after Southern Water blamed heavy rainfall on almost 20 sewage releases over the past month near Herne Bay. Traders are furious that visitor numbers to the town this summer have dropped and feel the ongoing saga involving the water company has contributed to the lack of business.
3 August 2023 – Yahoo!news: ‘Absolutely stinks’: Beachgoer’s disgust as sewage filmed pouring into sea on Cornwall coast.
A man has shared a video highlighting his disgust at the sight of sewage pouring into the sea near a Cornish beach. Video footage taken at Harlyn Beach in the south-west of England showed a storm overflow gushing into the ocean, resulting in excrement floating in the water. One beachgoer accused water companies of not making the signs – designed to warn swimmers of the waste – big enough to read.
5 August 2023 – The Guardian: Fifty-seven swimmers fall sick and get diarrhoea at world triathlon championship in Sunderland.
British Triathlon are investigating why so many competitors fell ill after the event last weekend. An Environment Agency sampling at Roker beach on Wednesday 26 July, three days before the event, showed 3,900 E Coli colonies per 100ml, more than 39 times higher than typical readings the previous month.
3 August 2023 – ITV Tonight Episode 23. Britain’s Dirty Water: What Went Wrong?
Joe Crowley investigates the current state of British beaches and how much bills may need to rise in order to upgrade sewage infrastructure. He highlights issues in Lake Windermere, Scarborough and Blackpool. Stuart Colville, Head of Policy at Water UK says that keeping bills down is to blame to lack of investment. [Ed: He does not mention the massive dividends paid out to investors].
2 August 2023 – Yahoo!news: ‘Rife with sewage’: UK holidaymakers issued warning over beaches.
Britons heading off for staycations this summer have been advised to check the water for sewage before taking a dip in the sea. Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) shared a map of the UK coastlines that show many parts of the UK “rife with sewage pollution”. It comes after recent data from SAS showed 654 alerts of sewer overflows spilling sewage into bathing waters from 171 locations in England and Wales.
2 August 2023 – The Guardian: Britain’s world championship triathletes cannot train in Irish Sea due to pollution.
British triathletes preparing for next month’s world championships have been forced to abandon open water swim training because of sewage in the sea off the coast of Lancashire. Adam Diver [one of the triathletes] said of the pollution: “It is horrible and it is upsetting. You can smell it as well, especially on hot days, you can smell the sewage.” Diver is involved in planning a national day of protest over sewage in Britain’s seas and rivers on 14 October.
1 August 2023 – BBC News: Hundreds raise concerns about new Cambridge sewage works.
The Cambridge Water Treatment Plan is being moved to free up land for the North East Cambridge development which is set to include more than 8,000 homes and create 15,000 jobs. Hundreds of people and groups have submitted objections to the planning inspectorate, primarily with concerns about the environmental impact.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: So the £277m needed to build the new @camcitco sewage works is being funded by taxpayers, not @AnglianWater‘s shareholders, but the company will own the plant & therefore the asset value with the old works sold for development & AW keeping the cash from the sale. That right?
1 August 2023 – UN Environment Programme: CONFERENCE World Water Week 2023 – 20-24 August 2023 Online and in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ed: Let’s hope our Environment Agency is going. They may learn something about ‘sustainable wastewater management‘! Sample papers:
Wednesday, 23 August | 09:30-10:00 hrs: Scaling up solutions for sustainable wastewater and nutrient management
Wednesday, 23 August | 11:00-11:40 hrs: From sick water to rich water: enhancing sustainable wastewater management
1 August 2023 – Business Green: Investigation: Protected areas in England and Wales hit with 300,000 hours of raw sewage in 2022.
Ed: Echoing the Mirror report. Also reported by National World, LancsLive and Northern Echo.
July 2023 Sewage Watch
31 July 2023 – Mirror: Sewage pours into conservation sites including Lake District for 300,000 hours.
Greenpeace found precious habitats heavily hit by spills include the Lake District and Wales’ Brecon Beacons. Its investigative unit Unearthed said 1,193 sewage overflows discharged within 50m of a protected areas last year, lasting 305,963 hours. Megan Corton Scott, Political Campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “These are the casualty figures from a war which nature is losing, badly. Private water companies treat our countryside as a toilet …
31 July 2023 – Yahoo!life: One in four sea swimmers put off by sewage discharges, say Lib Dems.
Just over 30% of UK adults said they go sea swimming during the summer, and of these 23% said they will not this year because of sewage dumping by water companies. The poll, carried out by Savanta with 2,272 UK adults between July 21 and 23, found 43% of regular beachgoers said they were less likely to visit the British seaside this summer because of the sewage discharges.
30 July 2023 – Extinction Rebellion (XRO) Oxford: DIRTY WATER WAVE 4 – WATER POLLUTION, A HAZARD TO OUR HEALTH.
Join XR Rebels, and Allied organisations in a protest about the shocking state of our polluted waterways. In this 4th Wave of the Dirty Water campaign we will be reaching out to the public in Central Oxford seeking support in the campaign against Water Companies that continue to pump raw sewage into our rivers.
AUGUST 5 @ 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM Cornmarket.
29 July 2023 – iNews (Save Britain’s Rivers): The man diving through condoms, sanitary pads and sewage to highlight the state of UK rivers.
Mr Barrow first witnessed a sewage dump while filming wildlife in the river 15 years ago. “I assumed I’d hit this wall of silt. It wasn’t until I surfaced that I realised I was actually in the middle of a sewage discharge. And by the time I got out I was literally covered in everything that had been flushed down the toilet. Vile,” he said.
28 July 2023 – The Scotsman: Will England allow its iconic and rare chalk stream habitats to be trashed by pollution?
Described by David Attenborough as “one of the rarest habitats on Earth” in his recent BBC series, Wild Isles, chalk streams are under serious threat. Charles Rangeley-Wilson, appointed by the UK Environment Agency to help deliver on a 2021 government strategy to save chalk streams, said we are “miles from where we need to be.
27 July 2023 – New Scientist: River pollution ‘offsets’ for homes in England and Wales may not work.
Building new homes increases the amount of pollution that is released into waterways, particularly phosphorus and nitrogen. These nutrients are expensive to process in wastewater treatment works and so a significant amount ends up being released into local rivers, says Peter Cruddas at the University of Portsmouth, UK. This, in turn, leads to the deoxygenation of water bodies, harming both fish and plant life.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: [the offsets] are often impractical and lack scientific evidence to support them, experts have warned.
27 July 2023 – @SOSWhitstable tweets: Suddenly @SouthernWater have retrospectively added EIGHT new releases for Whitstable over the past 2 weeks, amounting to 26+ hours of sewage.
This includes 14 hours last night and 4 hours before the end of school swim. This is not good enough.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: It’s amazing how fragile water companies IT systems appear to be, not unlike their sewage and water supply infrastructure, decades of mismanagement, underinvestment and corporate greed.
26 July 2023 – ITV News: United Utilities confirm sewage discharges on three Merseyside beaches.
People are being warned not to swim in the sea at three Merseyside beaches following reports of sewage discharges in the area. United Utilities confirmed to ITV Granada Reports that there had been sewage discharges at Moels, Moreton and Southport beaches.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Just 2 months ago @unitedutilities paid £300 million in dividends to shareholders. Perhaps a little bit more of that money should have been spent on their sewage system.
26 July 2023 – Yorkshire Post: Yorkshire Water pays out £62m in dividends after sharp rise in profits.
Its annual report said £62.3m in dividends were paid to other companies in the Kelda Group, to help cover interest payments on loans taken out on behalf of Yorkshire Water, and no money went to external shareholders. Yorkshire Water is part of Kelda Group, which is run by Kelda Holdings Limited. Shareholders in the Jersey-based parent company include Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC and Australia’s SAS Trustee Corporation.
25 July 2023 – Devon Live: Four Devon beaches hit with sewage alerts after storm discharges.
Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) warns that storm sewage has been discharged from four beaches. The main contributing factor to polluted beaches is urban runoff, which sees fertilizers, pesticides, oil, and untreated human and animal waste all entering waterways, such as rivers. They then eventually end up at our beaches.
25 July 2023 – BBC News: Thames Water ordered to tackle sewage smell.
Neighbours of the site in Riverside Way, Camberley, have complained for weeks about “cess-pit” smells from its treatment works. Surrey Heath Borough Council’s environmental health team has written to the company to require “all reasonably practicable action to mitigate the foul smells”.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Thames Water ordered to tackle sewage smell.” Ah, so at least one local council is beginning to realise they have all kinds of public nuisance enforcement powers over water companies. Well done @Surreyheath. Who’s next?
25 July 2023 – The Guardian: Thames Water has failed to install any smart meters yet in £70m green scheme.
Company admits delay in rolling out devices to 204,700 customers, with deadline less than two years away.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: I’m stating the obvious but @thameswater really is one of the worst run companies in the UK. Given £70m in 2021 to install 204K smart water meters. Job not even started yet.
24 July 2023 – Henley Standard: Water company sewage record ‘unacceptable’.
CAMPAIGNERS in Henley have branded Thames Water a “disgrace” after it was revealed the company had more serious pollution incidents in 2022 than in any single year since 2013. Councillor Jo Robb, who sits on South Oxfordshire District Council and is a member of the Henley Mermaids open water swimming group, said: “This report is shocking but absolutely not a surprise. Of greatest concern is that of 17 serious pollution incidents, only six were self-reported to the Environment Agency by Thames Water itself. This is a total disgrace”.
23 July 2023 – Yahoo!life: Public warned not to swim at 19 popular UK beaches over poor water quality – full list of locations affected.
Environment group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have issued the alerts on its interactive map advising the public not to swim at specific beaches due to waste being discharged from a sewer overflow within the past 48 hours. David Forsdick KC, representing the environmental group WildFish, said 75% of the discharges into waterways were because of a lack of hydraulic capacity at treatment works.
22 July 2023 – Yahoo!movies: Interactive map shows pollution caused by sewage spills across Liverpool and Merseyside.
According to official data, sewage discharges have polluted every corner of England and Wales in the last year. The water industry has been under widespread pressure from the public and the government to clean up its performance after recording almost 400,000 sewage dumping incidents in England and Wales in 2022, totalling to 3.3 million hours of pollution pouring into the country’s waterways. Wirral was the Merseyside area worst affected by discharges, with sewage pouring into its waterways for over 19,000 hours.
21 July 2023 – The Caterer: Lake District’s Michelin-starred restaurants team up for Save Windermere campaign.
Several chefs, including Ollie Bridgwater from Source at the Gilpin Hotel and Paul Burgalières from L’Enclume, have joined the Save Windermere campaign dinner, which is due to take place in September. The Chefs4SaveWindermere initiative was spearheaded by Barney Cunliffe of Gilpin Hotel & Lake House and has received support from a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the Lake District. Money raised from the event will go towards supporting Save Windermere campaign’s data collection and parliamentary lobbying methods.
21 July 2023 – Warrington-Wordwide: Extinction Rebellion gathers outside United Utilities AGM.
EXTINCTION Rebellion campaigners were today gathering outside Warrington based United Utilities’ AGM to protest against the levels of sewage dumping destroying rivers, lakes and seas. Hannah Stanton, a teacher and member of Extinction Rebellion Trafford, said, “The crisis in our waterways is a result of corporate greed that sees executives and shareholders pocketing huge payouts while workers’ pay is squeezed, our infrastructure crumbles, wildlife dies and our environment is wrecked”.
19 July 2023 – Brighton and Hove News: Council due to debate motion on sewage.
Green councillor criticises Southern Water for discharges and calls for compensation for Brighton and Hove. Councillor Pete West says: “The combination of defunding, deregulation and privatisation is obliterating services across our country and allowing water companies to dump sewage with relative impunity. Public ownership of water is an essential step to fix this systemic problem.”
18 July 2023 – The Guardian: Thames Water’s biggest investor has cut value of stake by nearly 30%.
Debt-laden company has faced questions over financial stability and ability to raise funds. The Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (Omers), a Canadian pension fund that owns a 31% stake in Britain’s biggest water supplier, reduced the valuation put on its investment last year, it has emerged.
@Feargal_Sharkey tweets: Rescue plan is going well then?
17 July 2023 – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP): Corruption Control – Part Four: Ofwat.
Ofwat’s position on outside interests and shares in water companies is similar to that of the Environment Agency, in that they are supposed to be avoided if they may compromise the individual (to paraphrase), but unlike the Agency it is very specific about forbidding interests in water companies. The current Chair of Ofwat … is also still a senior advisor at HIG Capital – a massive private equity/alternative assets investment company. His predecessor … had been Managing Director at Yorkshire Water (1996 to 2000) and Group Chief Executive, of AWG plc (later Anglian Water Group Plc) and Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Anglian Water Services Ltd (2004 to 2010). “The measures to manage risks involving conflicts of interest and therefore corruption are wholly unfit and must be reformed.”
18 July 2023 – New Scientist: Treated sewage released into rivers may hamper eel migrations.
European eels avoid swimming through plumes of effluent from sewage treatment plants, which could delay their journeys and use up precious energy reserves. Sewage treatment creates a complex chemical cocktail – “thousands and thousands of chemicals, and we don’t know the exact composition”, says Hendrik Volken Winter at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
18 July 2023 – The Times: South East Water retains £9m dividend despite £74m loss.
South East Water reported a £74m loss due to the extreme events of 2022 yet still managed to find £9m for its shareholders. @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “Yes, you can’t make this stuff up. And the regulator @ofwat does what exactly?”
17 July 2023 – Guildford Dragon: Thames Water Among Worst in the Country – Environment Agency.
The [EA] report, published July 12, found that for serious pollution incidents four companies performed significantly below target – and none more so than Anglian Water and Thames Water. In Guildford, the number of incidents has been improving with a reduction of untreated sewage discharges sewer into the River Wey at Slyfield from 27 times for 346 hours in 2020 to 11 times for a total of 98 hours in 2021 and seven times for a total of 68 hours in 2022 and only once this year (2023) so far.
See also The Chiswick Calendar: Thames Water among the worst in the country for pollution.
17 July 2023 – Cambridge Independent: Anglian Water seeking ‘lenient’ permit for river pollution.
Anglian Water is challenging calls from the Environment Agency to tighten up limits on the release of ‘solid’ matter and phosphate from its sewage works in Cambridge. The water company, which has applied to move the wastewater treatment plant at Cowley Road in Cambridge to a new site a mile away on green belt land, admits it is currently ‘non compliant’ on the limits in dry weather. @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “No matter what @AnglianWater would have had you believe in their now banned tv ad here’s the reality”.
16 July 2023 – ITV News: Anglian Water named one of worst performing water companies by Environment Agency.
The Environment Agency’s annual report on the environmental performance of water companies rated Anglian Water two out of five stars for the second year running. It said it was concerned the company “will not or cannot change” after causing over 250 sewage pollution incidents in 2022, with 11 of these defined as serious. @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “That of course came just 3 days after @AnglianWater was named company of the year at the Water Industry Awards 2023. What a farce”.
16 July 2023 – Western Telegraph: Sewage pollution alert for Newport beach, Pembrokeshire.
The warning to people not to swim at Newport was issued yesterday, Saturday July 15 by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), and remains in force today, Sunday July 16. @Feargal_Sharkey tweets: “Oh and don’t think you’re going to escape [pollution] by going to the outer reaches of Wales either”.
15 July 2023 – Wild Oxfordshire: Source to Sewage Public Meeting Moreton in Marsh.
Volunteer citizen scientists have been monitoring the River Evenlode and their results are quite shocking. The river is polluted at its very source … with nitrate and phosphate levels off the chart at times.
15 July 2023 – @Feargal_Sharkey: Good old @SouthWestWater always dependable, always reliable, always crap.
Highest water bills in England, customers living under a hosepipe ban since last August and this morning dumping sewage into huge swaths of if not most of Cornwall and Devon. Ho hum.
15 July 2023 – Cornwall Live: Fifty four Cornwall beaches slapped with raw sewage warning after heavy rainfall.
Swimming in contaminated water can lead to gastroenteritis, hepatitis, giardiasis, skin rashes, amoebic dysentery, nose, ear, and throat problems, pink eye, and other respiratory illnesses.
@Feargal_Sharkey: Just as the school holidays approach!
14 July 2023 – Private Eye Magazine: Thames Water threatens staff with NDAs to stop them talking to the press.
“As if we have any idea how to stop leaks!”
13 July 2023 – Reuters: UK water pollution incidents still ‘unacceptably high’, says report.
Britain had fewer serious water pollution incidents in 2022 than in the previous year but the number remains “unacceptably high”, the government’s Environment Agency said in its annual report on Wednesday. Water companies in Britain have been facing overwhelming criticism over raw sewage releases which have led to the poor quality of rivers and beaches, while large payouts made to their shareholders have also stoked public anger.
13 July 2023 – BBC News: River Wye taskforce would act to clean up waterway, letter says.
The government is being urged to set up a border task force to clean up the River Wye. In a letter, Herefordshire Council chief executive Paul Walker says laws to stop pollution are not working. The letter is backed by local wildlife groups, charities, and local politicians.
13 July 2023 – Open Democracy: UK river ‘dying’ after farmers lobbied government to water down protections.
National Farmers’ Union boasted about months of lobbying to weaken enforcement of environmental regulation. Natural England recently downgraded the status of the River Wye, a designated Special Area of Conservation due to a decline of key species. Environmental charity River Action UK says the loophole effectively allows farmers to spread excess manure, which then washes into rivers.Fifty four Cornwall beaches slapped with raw sewage warning after heavy rainfall
13 July 2023 – Open Democracy: UK river ‘dying’ after farmers lobbied government to water down protections.
National Farmers’ Union boasted about months of lobbying to weaken enforcement of environmental regulation. Natural England recently downgraded the status of the River Wye, a designated Special Area of Conservation due to a decline of key species. Environmental charity River Action UK says the loophole effectively allows farmers to spread excess manure, which then washes into rivers.
10 July 2023 – New Civil Engineer: Current sewage pollution issues could be the result of well-intended privatisation legislation.
The well-intentioned widespread use of 6mm screens at sewage works could not cope with the volumes and were often overwhelmed. The water companies did nothing to correct this mistake. Ed: Very technical but well worth reading.
11 July 2023 – @darrenpjones (Bristol MP) on Twitter: EFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Committee to quiz Thames Water, OFWAT and Ministers – 12 July 2023.
Why they let the owners of water companies: Ramp up debt, Increase exec pay, and Expose taxpayers to billions of pounds of risk.
12 July 2023 – @FeargalSharkey on Twitter: People with large gardens should pay higher bills says Thames Water boss.
Well that’s really going to fix the £14bn black hole in @thameswater‘s accounts. Is there any danger of a water company actually hiring someone who knows what they’re doing?
11 July 2023 – Devon Live: Map shows twenty Devon beaches plagued by sewage and pollution.
A recently updated sewage map by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) has revealed that 20 beaches across Devon currently have pollution or sewage warnings in place. Beauty spots such as Exmouth, Sidmouth and Salcombe are to name but a few of the areas where warnings are in place as swimmers are urged to avoid entering the water.
11 July 2023 – Evening Standard: Thames Water’s former CEO handed half a million pounds as higher bills help keep it afloat.
The payment revealed today was compensation for share awards she may have received at her previous employer, Severn Trent. Her payoff for leaving Thames Water, which will be revealed “in due course”, is likely to be far more. Around 15 million billpayers across London and the southeast are helping keep the embattled and heavily indebted company afloat as it faces down calls for nationalisation.
10 July 2023 – Evening Standard: Thames Water misses targets on leakages, pollution and usage.
Thames Water has missed half of its performance targets, including those on leakages, sewer flooding, pollution, blockages and customer usage.
8 July 2023 – The Guardian (John Nelson): I helped to privatise England’s water firms. But it’s government inaction that wrecked them.
“As bankers in the 80s and 90s, we created safe, stock-market-listed companies. Then private equity moved in, but despite many warnings, Whitehall did nothing. … these sensibly capitalised plcs .were acquired by private equity and infrastructure funds, largely based outside the UK. They used substantial amounts of debt for acquisition, with a view to paying down the debt as rapidly as possible from the strong positive cashflows that these companies generated; this in order to maximise the equity returns. … extraordinarily, this policy was aided and abetted by the regulatory regime [which] disincentivised companies from investing for the long term.”
6 July 2023 – Financial Times: Letter [from Roger Salmon]: Thames Water should not drain taxpayers’ money.
“A key feature of the regulatory scheme [setting up the water companies] was that, in the event of financial default, the interests of the customer ranked before financial creditors.” So no reason for the taxpayer to bail out Thames Water.
10 July 2023 – Feargal Sharkey on Twitter: Thames Water’s annual results, published today, are a real bag of laughs.
No mention of the pending bankruptcy, no mention that shareholders didn’t provide the £1.5bn investment promised last year, only they’ll provide £700m but only if @ofwat agrees customers should pay for it.
8 July 2023 – Yorkshire Post: Dumping of sewage in rivers shames water companies, regulators and the Government.
Sometimes the numbers speak for themselves. It has been claimed that just two of the region’s rivers have had the equivalent of 419 Olympic swimming pools worth of raw sewage pumped into them. The government should be treating the now long standing issue of sewage discharges as a crisis.
8 July 2023 – CNN: Britain’s water industry crisis: Sewage spills, huge leaks and crushing debts.
The UK water sector is “clearly in a state of multiple crises,” said Dieter Helm, a professor of economic policy at the University of Oxford. “The day job of maintaining the assets … and achieving required environmental outcomes has not been done very well, and in some cases very badly … widespread financial engineering” to boost dividend payouts to shareholders had left the industry in a precarious position”.
7 July 2023 – Good Law Project: Petition to end corporate pollution in our rivers.
The UK’s rivers belong to us all – we won’t let water companies dump sewage into them. Agree? Sign now to protect our natural landscape from corporations.
7 July 2023 – The Guardian: South East Water spent more on dividends and debt than infrastructure.
Even water companies providing drinking water are fleecing us. The company which left thousands of households without running water last month spent more on dividends and servicing its debt pile over two years than investing in infrastructure.
6 July 2023 – Oscar Dog: 3 beaches in North Norfolk lost their blue flag status.
MP Duncan Baker is more interested in awarding contracts to businesses monitoring pollution than stopping the pollution in the first place.
4 July 2023: Andrew Curry – Just Two Things: 2: A modest proposal to rebuild Britain’s sewage infrastructure.
Andrew summarises the situation as: “… the current water system is broken; it takes a lot of money to fix it; the British economy is both fragile and stretched bare; but the proposition of investing in infrastructure is attractive if it can find the money”, which is over £250bn!
7 July 2023 – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP): Corruption Control – Part Three – Southern Water.
A director of British Water (representing the Water Industry) was given a post on the Environment Agency (regulator of the Water Industry). He later joined Southern Water a few months before sentencing on a March 2020 offence. How can such people deny a conflict of interest. “The Environment Agency is not a regulator fit to operate in the voracious commercial world it inhabits”.
5 July 2023 – Isle of Thanet News: Six Thanet beaches affected by Southern Water sewer outfall releases.
And on another island … Sewer water releases from two outfall pipes in Margate (each lasting 3 or 4 hours) has affected six Thanet beaches. Southern Water’s Beachbuoy website shows warnings over water quality at Margate, Fulsam Rock, Walpole Bay, Botany Bay, Joss Bay and Stone Bay.
5 July 2023 – Island Echo: BURST SEWAGE PIPE AT YAVERLAND SET TO CAUSE WEEKS OF CONGESTION AS 3-WAY TRAFFIC LIGHTS ERECTED.
Even the Isle of Wight is suffering from lack of maintenance of pressurised sewers. Southern Water engineers are working to repair yet another burst pressurised sewer at Yaverland, but it may be several weeks until the situation is resolved bringing about significant travel disruption for motorists.
5 July 2023 – Plymouth Herald: Plymouth children sick after swimming at Plymbridge Woods.
There are reports of up to nine children, aged between six and 11, becoming poorly after playing in the water at Plymbridge Woods on Saturday. South West Water denied any responsibility.
5 July 2023 – Cornwall Live: Sixteen Cornwall beaches hit with raw sewage warning after heavy rainfall.
Cornwall has seen 16 of its beaches declared a “pollution risks” or at risk of pollution by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) today (July 5). It comes after heavy downpours across the county yesterday. Beaches on both the south and north side of Cornwall are affected, including water near Looe, Newquay and Penzance.
4 July 2023 – Wild Fish UK: On 4 July, we’re taking the Government to the High Court in our fight against sewage pollution.
We want the Government to enforce the law – that has been in existence since 1994 – and stop water companies from dumping raw sewage in rivers. This means tearing up the plan which allows water companies to continue to break the law for a further 27 years until 2050.
4 July 2023 – Reuters: Struggling Thames Water fined $4 mln by UK court.
“We are deeply sorry for the entirely unacceptable pollution incident into the Gatwick Stream and River Mole six years ago,” the company’s interim co-CEO Cathryn Ross said in the statement. “We fully accept that we made significant errors and exercised poor judgment at the time.”
4 July 2023 – The Guardian: Henley regatta organisers complain of sewage pollution from Thames Water.
Even the posh set are getting worried about the River Thames. Henley Regatta Chairman, Sir Steve Redgrave said: “… we are deeply concerned about the impact that sewage pollution is having on our beautiful river”.
2 July 2023 – The Guardian: Editorial: Private water companies: a disaster made in the City.
The business model squeezes profits out of the infrastructure they own by cutting costs to the bone and maximising the income the holdings generate.
2 July 2023 – Financial Times: Lessons from the Thames Water debacle.
The regulators let companies get away with gearing up their balance sheets and paying out extra dividends. They also failed to ensure they did their day job: looking after the assets.
1 July 2023 – The Guardian: UK water giants recruit top staff from regulator Ofwat.
Demands for an end to the ‘revolving door’ as ex-Ofwat directors are hired by key firms. England’s water companies employ key executives who had previously worked at the watchdog.
June 2023 Sewage Watch
29 June 2023 – Bristol MP Darren Jones says the water companies are just not regulated.
#BBCBreakfast / @Haggis_UK: We need ministers to take some accountability for the quality of our regulators.
29 June 2023 – Water companies pay all their vast profits out in dividends leaving nothing for investment.
@RichardMurphy: Looking at the accounts of England’s water companies for the last twenty years, My conclusion is that they are all environmentally insolvent.
28 June 2023 – One of many articles on the possible collapse of Thames Water.
MSN / The Independent: Contingency plans being drawn up for possible collapse of Thames Water.
27 June 2023 – Macquarie group stripped Thames Water bare. Will they do the same to their new acquisition, Southern Water?
@Feargal_Sharkey: Macquarie venture capital “Vampire Kangaroo”.
26 June 2023 – WASP’s investigation reveals an absence of effective corruption control in one of the most important regulators of polluters – the Environment Agency.
Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP): Corruption Control? Part Two.
22 June 2023 – United Utilities admit that spill into sea caused by a broken pipe at sewage treatment plant and excess rain.
The Telegraph: Blackpool beach visitors advised not to swim after 14-mile sewage spill.
21 June 2023 – The Environment Agency allows its staff and directors to own shares or hold directorships and business interests in the very companies they are supposed to regulate.
Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP): Corruption control or turning a blind eye?
20 June 2023 – Campaign group Surfers Against Sewage announced that sewage had been discharged from storm overflows at Warkworth, Amble Links, Druridge Bay North and Druridge Bay South.
Chronicle Live: Fresh warning of sewage discharges at four of Northumberland’s most popular beaches.
20 June 2023 – Pollution from untreated sewage in the River Kennet kept school children out of the water for their safety. Action for the River Kennet (ARK) had to abandon a day of river-school activities due to untreated sewage pouring into the river.
Penny Post: Preshute and Great Bedwyn pupils give sewage the thumbs-down.
18 June 2023 – Pollution on Scarborough beaches closes down local businesses.
The Guardian: No swimming, no surfing: how a summer of sewage is ruining the British seaside day out.
17 June 2023 – Hadrian Cook still cannot believe the scale of the lack of regulation in the water industry. The current sewage crisis shows that neither the Environment Agency nor Defra are doing their job.
West England Bylines: Why should we pay to fix this Sewage Crisis?
17 June 2023 – James Wallace, CEO of River Action said: “England has the worst river health in Europe. The River Thames is an unsafe place and people are getting ill”.
Henley Herald: Packed Meeting to Plan for Action Against River Sewage Pollution.
17 June 2023 – Southern Water trumpets their shortlisting for three environmental Water Industry Awards, despite being fined £90m for sewage pollution.
Yahoo! News: Water company up for top environment awards despite 16,000 sewage spills.
16 June 2023 – Britain’s waters are in a foul state, a legacy of our inherited Victorian combined drainage system. The task to overhaul it is unaffordable and radical solutions are needed.
UnHerd: The dirty truth about sewage. Westminster can no longer ignore the stink.
16 June 2023 – Untreated water discharged directly into the Irish Sea 12 June during repair work at the United Utilities treatment facility in Fleetwood. Environment Agency, and various councils along the Fylde coast, warned people not to enter the water.
Lancs Live: E.coli ‘found in Blackpool sea’ following raw sewage discharge and no swim warnings across coast.
12 June 2023 – Lifeguards get swimmers out of the water because of a ‘sewage dump’ which Southern Water claims is ‘algal bloom’. An eye witness said the pollution was coming from an outfall pipe.
Brighton and Hove News: Swimmers told to leave water after patch of brown water found.
12 June 2023 – Ben Seal form British Canoeing says: “Recreational users like swimmers and paddlers are falling ill now as a result of the tens of thousands of hours of raw sewage that is ending up in our waters”.
British Canoeing: Sewage targets need to go ‘further and faster’.
8 June 2023 – The storm overflows taskforce, set up in August 2020, met on 30 August 2022 and published a plan the next day. It has not met since.
The Guardian: England raw sewage taskforce has only met once in last year, FoI request reveals.
6 June 2023 – Feargal Sharkey on Twitter: So there you have it. Less than a month after saying she would refuse any bonus Sarah (“I’m heartbroken about sewage”) Bentley snatches a £1.6m pay packet. Next time WCs say “SORRY”! bear that in mind.
The Times: Thames Water chief Sarah Bentley paid £1.6m despite giving up bonus.
5 June 2023 – River Action have a ten point plan to rescue our rivers. Top of the list is ‘Ending Sewage Pollution’. Sign and share the petition.
38 Degrees: Petition to ‘Rescue our Rivers’ passes 65,000 signatories.
5 June 2023 – What could Southern Water possibly be hiding by refusing to release documents to the Information Commissioner.
Feargal Sharkey: Southern Water is refusing to hand over board documents on sewage dumping.
3 June 2023 – WI’s 180,000-strong network of members will support bids to get river stretches designated as bathing sites. Chief executive, Melissa Green, said “The quality of water in the UK’s rivers is “currently shameful”.
BBC News: Women’s Institute pollution campaign a ‘clarion call’.
2 June 2023 – Pollution from Yorkshire Water is so bad that protesters at Scarborough couldn’t even enter the water at their recent paddle-out. See 22 May post too.
Surfers Against Sewage: Demand an end to #profitfrompollution now.
May 2023 Sewage Watch
31 May 2023 – EA themselves say the sewage spills data for 2022 is far too high and totally unacceptable. They are ‘considering’ whether any action is required under our Enforcement and Sanctions Policy. I SHOULD HOPE SO!
Environment Agency: Storm overflow spill data shows performance is totally unacceptable.
31 May 2023 – North East councillors call for reform of Northumbrian Water after years of putting public health at risk and large-scale environmental damage. It was outrageous that households would be made to pay for modernisation works.
Chronicle Live: Call for Northumbrian Water to be ‘reformed from top to bottom’ over North East sewage dumping.
30 May 2023 – Following on from our 15 May report, campaigners claim that the River Lim which flows through the seaside town of Lyme Regis and historically had trout, eels, invertebrates and even kingfishers is now “ecologically dead” as a direct result of sewage spills.
ITV News: Dorset’s River Lim now ‘ecologically dead’ after sewage spillages, campaigners say.
29 May 2023 – Feargal Sharkey tweets: “Despite sewage been dumped into the environment for 7,519,523 hours on 1,076,795 separate occasions over the last 3 years just 4 water companies have been prosecuted by the @EnvAgency. Now you know what regulatory failure looks like”.
Financial Times: Watchdog fines just four companies despite 300,000 sewage spills.
29 May 2023 – After last week’s announcement that they are supporting ‘Save Windermere’, the comedians Steve Coogan and Lee Mack are performing in Bowness for the environmental charity ‘Friends of The Lake District’. Steve says: “Stop putting sewage in the lake and remove the pollution … already there”.
ITV News: Steve Coogan and Lee Mack campaign against sewage discharges in Lake Windermere.
28 May 2023 – The water companies are doing what all such privatised entities do, which is to maximise profits and dividends. If you’re uncomfortable with that, there are two solutions, nationalisation or efficient, targeted regulation.
Readers of The Guardian: Water companies profit as we bathe in apathy.
26 May 2023 – Whitstable Oyster Company lost £200,000 in 2021 when they were forced to close for the whole summer, and they shut again in February this year.
ITV News: Worrying levels of E. coli in UK’s shellfish as sewage spills into sea.
26 May 2023 – Eleven shellfish production zones in south Cornwall have been closed after very high levels of E coli were found in their oysters and mussels. E coli concentrations detected were up to 400, yes four hundred, times the permitted level.
The Guardian: Sewage spills blamed as E coli forces Cornish shellfish sites to close.
26 May 2023 – After 45 years of angling on the River Wye, a local fisheries manager faces giving it up because of pollution. The “dreadful conditions” were having an impact on the eco-systems.
BBC News Gloucestershire: Water pollution: ‘We’ve lost it, the River Wye looks so ill’.
25 May 2023 – Extinction Rebellion spokesperson, Di Cross says: “Salisbury’s five rivers help to define the city and we must protect them. Access to clean water is a fundamental human right – as recognised by the United Nations – and yet for decades now in Britain, it has been treated as no more than a commodity. The water industry was privatised 30 years ago and during that time – while making huge profits and its directors drawing massive salaries – the water companies have failed to invest in new infrastructure or, indeed, manage existing infrastructure adequately, which has led to the totally unacceptable dumping of raw sewage in our waterways on myriad occasions.”
Salisbury Journal: Sewage and toxic chemicals: How polluted are Salisbury’s rivers?
22 May 2023 (I know it’s from last week but it’s important!) – Planning application under Section 8(2) of the Water Industry Act 1991 for Icosa Water Services Limited (owned through seven layers of Russian-doll companies by M&G Pension Fund) to “be appointed as Sewerage Undertaker in place of Thames Water Utilities Ltd” for Lower Way, Thatcham.
Councillor David Lister on Twitter. Are water companies off-loading assets to avoid scrutiny? Something smells whiffy.
25 May 2023 – This Conservative MP pretends that her Government is not to blame for sewage pollution. This is the sort of propaganda being put out by the Conservatives. Read with caution! Laura Ferris MP for Newbury: Newbury Weekly News: water companies must be held to account.
24 May 2023 – Four comedians (Steve Coogan, Joe Lycett, Lee Mack and Paul Whitehouse) join Matt Staniek, founder of Save Windermere, who says “What we lack is a comprehensive, visionary plan that guarantees the long-term protection of the crown jewel of the Lake District”. Mirror: Sewage in Windermere is killing ‘crown jewel of the Lake District’, says campaigner.
24 May 2023 – Severn Trent has increased its dividend to more than £260m, despite growing public anger over payments made by water suppliers to their shareholders and executives, as companies come under increasing pressure to tackle leaks and sewage pollution of rivers and seas. The Guardian: Severn Trent dividend exceeds £260m amid rising anger over sewage pollution.
24 May 2023 – As Feargal Sharkey tweets, “And just to add to @SouthWestWater’s headaches they also had to introduced a hosepipe ban just 4 weeks ago. You read that right. Two formal investigations underway by the regulator and a hosepipe ban, now what does that tell you about how SWW is run?” – Plymouth Herald: South West Water leaks probe amid Plymouth hosepipe ban.
22 May 2023 – As part of a nationwide action by campaign group Surfers Against Sewage, some Scarborough surfers surfed in South Bay to protest against the pollution, despite being told by the coastguard not to go into the sea due to poor water quality! As Feargal Sharkey tweets: “Yep, you can’t make this stuff up”. BBC News: Scarborough: Anti-sewage campaigners warned not to swim in sea.
20 May 2023 – After last week’s announcement that customers would foot the bill for overdue improvements, water companies still plan to pay out £15bn in dividends over next seven years. The Guardian: ‘The whole thing stinks’: UK water firms to pay £15bn to shareholders as customers foot sewage bill.
20 May 2023 – A report from 2002, which is still being withheld from publication, predicted the state of the privatised water industry today, and warned against private equity being allowed to move into water firms. The Guardian: Revealed: warning to ministers over privatised water kept secret since 2002.
19 May 2023 – The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) says there is very little official monitoring of sewage discharge despite raw sewage being dumped for 113,000 hours last year. It believes the true figure is much more – only 4% of Scottish storm overflows are checked for spills. Third Force News (TFN): Ocean charity warns dumping raw sewage is a bigger issue than figures suggest.
18 May 2023 – This interactive graphic shows that the massive £54bn debt accrued by the water companies helps them pay large dividends but means that we customers fund the interest payments for that debt. Scotland’s water is not privatised and the Scots pay 7% less than the English or Welsh. The Guardian: Down the drain: how billions of pounds are sucked out of England’s water system.
18 May 2023 – £50bn required to update water infrastructure. That’s roughly the same sum the water companies raised through debt since privatisation – which we’re paying for – not to invest in infrastructure but to pay dividends to shareholders. Now they want us to pay again. What a load of … Rev Richard Cole: Twitter.
18 May 2023 – Water UK, the body which represents England’s nine water and sewage companies, apologised on behalf of the industry for not “acting quickly enough“. Campaigners are furious that consumers will foot the bill not the water companies themselves. Feargal Sharkey called it a “half apology” that was another attempt to extract more money from customers. BBC News: Sewage spills: Water bills set to rise to pay for £10bn upgrade.
16 May 2023 – This report says consumers must use less water and water companies should repair leaks. It does NOT say (as Feargal Sharkey DOES) that water companies’ regional water plans are not worth the paper they’re written on. South West Farmer: Demand for water will outstrip supply say water companies.
16 May 2023 – Bolton saw 2,000 spills from storm overflows in 2022. Bolton councillor says: “We are calling on the government to take action against water companies and to implement strict fines and targets to end this practice”. Bolton News: Petition to remove raw sewage from waterways across Bolton.
15 May 2023 – Irony of ironies! The Environment Agency cannot guarantee bathing water quality, as this caveat states: “Our pollution risk forecasts do not include notifications of storm overflow operations as a method to consistently assess the impact of spills to bathing waters has not yet been developed”. So what protection do we have? Environment Agency: Bathing water season for 2023 officially begins.
15 May 2023 – The River Lim Action Group has looked at statistics from the Rivers Trust which show that the amount of human waste entering the river has tripled in the last year. In 2020 sewage spilled into the Lim for 376 hours, in 2021 that had risen to 680 hours and throughout 2022 there were 2,200 hours of spillage. Bridport & Lyme Regis News: River Lim ‘ecologically dead’ after sewage poured into it.
14 May 2023 – Devon and Cornwall District Judge fines South West Water £2.1m which “shows the shareholders and management of South West Water the importance of compliance”. Feargal Sharkey tweets: “That is the 161st time @SouthWestWaterhas been fined over the last 10 years, a total of £4,573,634. Fines don’t work, something else needs to done”. The Moorlander: South West Water fined £2,1m for pollution offences.
12 May 2023 – Feargal Sharkey tweets that: “There are only 2 small stretches of river in England designated as bathing waters. This morning both have ‘No swim’ advisories posted”. The River Wharfe at Ilkley and Wolvercote Mill Stream near Oxford are both polluted. Defra: Bathing Water Quality.
11 May 2023 – It sounds as if Water Minister Rebecca Pow is getting tough with fines being paid out of the operating company and into a ‘Restoration Fund’. However as Feargal Sharkey comments on Twitter, the fine is less than 3% of Anglia Water’s dividend payment. A drop in the ocean of profit for them! East Anglia Bylines: More sewage, higher fines – Anglian Water punished again.
10 May 2023 – After pressure from the Marine Conservation Society and others, the High Court granted a hearing against Defra’s August 2022 Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan. They want it extending to cover all coasts, estuaries and marine protected sites. New Civil Engineer: Defra consults on expansion of targets for storm overflow reduction.
8 May 2023 – Because UK water companies clothe themselves in a myriad of corporate structures, only one of which (the operating company) is regulated by Ofwat, they are able to pay out massive dividends, including ‘internal dividends’ to their parent companies. The £1.4bn represents some £50 per household or over 10% of our annual water bills. Financial Times: UK water company dividends jump to £1.4bn despite criticism over sewage outflows.
8 May 2023 – Surfers Against Sewage are holding a ‘Plymouth Paddle Out Protest’ on Plymouth Sound on 20 May for surfers, paddleboarders, swimmers, kayakers or simply those who care about the health of our waters. Plymouth Herald: Plymouth protesters ‘sick of sewage’ leaked into sea to stage paddle out protest.
8 May 2023 – John Anderson of the Burton Trent Partnership says the river has turned brown on several occasions recently with over 2,000 sewage dumps into the Trent in 2021. Staffordshire Live: Outrage over sewage being dumped in the River Trent in Burton.
6 May 2023 – Even in Scotland where water resources are not privatised, there are issues. A “large number of Combined Sewer Overflow (CSOs) outputs in Edinburgh’s waterways”, such as along the Water of Leith, the River Almond and the Figgate Burn. Edinburgh Reporter: Call for urgent action on “scandalous” discharging of sewage into city’s rivers.
5 May 2023 – The Australian Macquarie Group, whose asset management arm acquired a majority holding in UK’s Southern Water in August 2021, made a £4bn profit despite allowing Southern Water to discharge raw sewage for more than 3,700 hours at 83 bathing water beaches during an eight day period last autumn. The Guardian: Banking firm that owns Southern Water posts record profits.
3 May 2023 – Paul Hodgkinson, a Liberal Democrat councillor in the Gloucestershire wards of Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach said: “People raise it [the sewage issue] when we are out campaigning, people are very concerned about the sewage issue. The Cotswolds is famous for its iconic beauty, but it’s under threat.” Big Issue: ‘People are angry’: Will sewage sway how people vote in local elections?
2 May 2023 – In 2025, the year after the Olympic Games, Parisians can bathe in the Seine – “La qualité de l’eau est bonne” says Le Parisien. Paris spends €1bn to clean up the Seine so people can go swimming in it while last year alone @thameswater spent 7,000 hours dumping sewage into 31 of London’s rivers all of which ends up in the Thames. Feargal Sharkey: What a contrast.
1 May 2023 – The 4 May local elections are the first since the Guardian revealed the hidden scandal of the scale of raw sewage pollution in rivers, pushing the issue into the mainstream political debate. WASP founder Ash Smith says “The public were kept in the dark by government and the captured regulators but as campaigners dragged the dirty secrets out into the open, public awareness and disgust rapidly followed”. The Guardian – River pollution becomes key issue in English local elections.
1 May 2023 – From the cancellation of regattas to health advisories against swimming due to sewage dumps, the once pristine rivers of Oxford are now increasingly unsafe. Castle Mill Stream continues to display dangerous levels of bacteria – despite being the only official bathing spot on the Thames. Oxford Wild Swimming has “experienced a massive number of cancellations due to unsafe conditions in the river”. Cherwell (Oxford’s oldest student newspaper): “Sewage scum” and “nasty infections”: students plagued by deteriorating river quality.
April 2023 Sewage Watch
30 April 2023 – The Daily Express ‘Green Britain Needs You’ campaign focusses on dog walkers in Hampshire complaining about the polluted River Itchen. Quoting LibDems leader Ed Davey: sewage will be on many people’s minds on May 4 when they “protest” against the Government’s “lack of action”. Daily Express: Sewage in UK rivers surges to top of voters’ agenda.
30 April 2023 – An open letter to Conservative MPs called for more powers for the Environment Agency. Not one English river is classed as being in a healthy condition. Barnet Post: Labour candidate calls for funding to tackle ‘sewage scandal’.
28 April 2023 – The fines are starting to bite. Anglian Water pleaded guilty to discharging 7.5m litres of sewage at Jaywick Water Recycling Centre in Essex between June and July 2018 and were fined over £2.6m. ITV News: Anglian Water fined £2.6m for discharging 7.5m litres of sewage into North Sea at Jaywick. Also 3 May 2023 – New Civil Engineer: Anglian Water fined £2.7M over sewage spill into the North Sea.
28 April 2023 – At the UK’s annual River Restoration Conference in Birmingham, the recurring theme was that officials and the general public are too focused on sewage and not enough on the fact that nearly all of the UK’s rivers are in an unnatural state. Just 14 per cent of England’s rivers achieve good ecological status. New Scientist: Why saving Britain’s rivers means more than cleaning up sewage.
27 April 2023 – Windrush Against Sewage Pollution (WASP) reports on the failure of Labour’s bill to reduce sewage discharges. Thames Water routinely dumps sewage illegally and has done for years as it is cheaper than fixing the problems that cause the pollution – cheaper because the Environment Agency takes no effective deterrent action. Also WASP’s analysis proves that Thames Water shareholders DID take dividends! WASP – What just happened?
27 April 2023 – South West Water have been fined a record £2.1 million a string of environmental offences between in Devon and Cornwall between 2016 and 2020 that are enough to make your stomach turn. Big Issue – Raw sewage, dead fish and E.coli: Record £2.1m fine for water pollution in Devon and Cornwall.
26 April 2023 – Gloucestershire business journal reports on Labour and other parties demanding a stop to dumping sewage in Gloucester and the River Chelt. Punchline – Labour kicks up a stink over Gloucester sewage scandal
25 April 2023 – Labour’s private member’s bill to set faster targets for reducing sewage dischargeswas all set to be made law until the government used parliamentary procedure to block the debating of this Opposition Day motion. In the morning it looks fine: Policy Mogul – Storm overflow target to be enshrined in law. But by evening the Tories had blocked it: East Anglia Bylines – Tories vote to continue sewage scandal.
25 April 2023 – The professional magazine for civil engineers reports that Anglian Water have started the tender process for the provision of £9 million worth of sewer monitoring sensors. Better late than never? New Civil Engineer – Anglian Water sets out sewer monitoring sensor plan to cut pollution incidents
24 April 2023 – Accidental sewage discharges do happen. In South Benfleet a valve malfunction spilled sewage onto local roads. Essex Live – Anglian Water sewage plant site spills waste on South Benfleet road after system valve fails
24 April 2023 – A report that getting homeowners to fit water butts could ‘fix’ our sewage problem is very misleading. There is physically no space on most properties to install water butts. Anyway most gardeners like to keep their water butts full so there is no retention of rain water. Finally most prolonged sewage discharges are due to high groundwater not rainstorms. iNews – How the UK’s sewage problem could be fixed with simple garden tools being tested on the Isle of Wight
24 April 2023 – Sewage pollution is now the main issue in the upcoming local elections. The Green Party wants water re-nationalised. The LibDems are calling for a ban on sewage at blue flag beaches. BBC – Local elections 2023: How sewage topped the political agenda
22 April 2023 – Labour plan ads like “Do you think it’s right to allow raw sewage to be dumped into our rivers and beaches 800 times a day? Rishi Sunak does.” if Tory MPs block Jim McMahon’s bill on monitoring sewage [which they did]. Daily Mirror – Labour planning local ad blitz if Tory MPs block sewage dumping crackdown plan
22 April 2023 – Feargal Sharkey tweets that – South West Water are over-abstracting more than 100m litres from the River Avon every day
22 April 2023 – In the heart of the Cotswolds, members of the Coln Residents Against Pollution in Bibury were joined by other passionate protestors from neighbouring towns and villages. ITV News – Bibury residents protest ‘shameful’ sewage pollution of River Coln.
21 April 2023 – In the North West United Utilities reduction in storm overflows is welcome but they are still the worst performing water company. North West Bylines – United Utilities sewage discharges are down – but what’s really going on?
21 April 2023 – In Manchester a plan to convert a field into a woodland is abandoned due soil contamination from United Utilities discharging sewage onto the field 135 times in the last year. The Guardian – Sewage-soaked field stops creation of new woodland in Greater Manchester.
20 April 2023 Sussex World – Southern Water explains 250 hour sewage release in Felpham
19 April 2023 World Economic Forum – UK waters are too polluted to swim in – but European countries offer answers
18 April 2023 Cheshire Live – Cyclist’s ‘sewage’ fears after ‘abhorrent’ sighting on River Dee
18 April 2023 The Telegraph – Water companies accused of sewage discharge cover-up by failing to fix faulty monitors
18 April 2023 This is Money – The big stink: Water firms making ‘a mockery’ of efforts to link bosses’ bonuses to pollution targets
17 April 2023 Big Issue North – Top of the Poops
17 April 2023 New Civil Engineer – England’s adoption of Schedule 3 is a watershed moment
17 April 2023 Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) – Combined sewer overflows – it’s time we cut the crap
17 April 2023 Loughborough University – UK waters are too polluted to swim in – but European countries offer answers
17 April 2023 Leicester Mercury – Questions raised over amount of raw sewage being emptied into Leicestershire waters
15 April 2023 Gloucestershire Live – Severn Trent blasted for ‘broken promises’ and ‘continuous sewage spills’ in Gloucestershire
14 April 2023 Sussex World – Pop star Feargal Sharkey shares Eastbourne water quality concerns
15 April 2023 Westbury People’s Gallery – The Shit Song Video
13 April 2023 Reading Chronicle – Reading: Charity furious at sewage dumping in Foudry Brook
13 April 2023 The Express – British seaside hit with sewage – full list of affected holiday hotspots
13 April 2023 The Guardian – More than 7,500 days’ worth of raw sewage dumped in ministers’ constituencies
12 April 2023 East Anglia Bylines – Victory and disappointment for River Deben campaigners
12 April 2023 The Times – Sewage dumped on shellfish without assessment, government admits
7 April 2023 The Telegraph – Cotswolds has become sewage ‘dumping ground’.
4 April 2023 Mail Online – Is your favourite beach one of England’s sewage hotspots?
3 April 2023 Top of the Pops – 375,000 “sewage spills” into waterways in 2022, lasting 2,291,055 hours
3 April 2023 Bylines Cymru – Welsh rivers see some of the worst sewage dumping in the UK