Water company bosses have blamed the UK government’s inaction for the lack of progress in stopping sewage pollution, according to newly revealed letters.
According to Environment Agency data, sewage was dumped into UK seas and rivers more than 770,000 times during 2020 and 2021, equivalent to almost 6 million people. ‘hours.
During his short stint as environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena demanded that every water company boss write to him with plans to reduce storm surges, where human waste is pumped into rivers and on The beaches.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs only made the letters public months later, when it was required to do so under the Freedom of Information Act.
In the letters, the chief executives of the water company made scathing comments about the government’s inaction in the sewage scandal. They complained that the government had failed to introduce new laws to justify the sewage discharges.
Water companies have complained about two pieces of legislation in particular: regulations on drainage systems for new developments passed in 2010 but not yet enforced in England (Wales implemented the measure in 2018), and a ban non-biodegradable wet wipes proposed in a private member’s bill by Labor MP Fleur Anderson but ignored by the Conservative government.
Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Tim Farron said: ‘It’s a dark day for the government as even water companies blame their inaction for the sewage crisis.
‘No wonder the Department for the Environment has lingered on these letters for so long, they are very embarrassing. They prove that successive Tory ministers have buried their heads in the sand while UK coastlines have been polluted with sewage .
“These are the same water company executives who paid themselves insulting bonuses worth millions of pounds, while destroying rivers and lakes. The government needs to pull itself together. Years of conservative chaos have delayed the resolution of this crisis. It is an environmental scandal that is unfortunately here to stay.
Anglian Water CEO Peter Simpson said the government had failed to act to ensure homes were built sustainably, taking into account the sewage system. “If water companies became statutory consultants on development planning, not just local plans, and if Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act were enacted, then our role in ensuring sustainable growth would be significantly enhanced.”
Additionally, Simpson called for a ban on the sale of non-biodegradable wet wipes: “We also believe the time is right to impose a comprehensive ban on the sale of wet wipes that do not meet Fine to Flush standards. The industry has worked closely with manufacturers and retailers on the development of this standard, but adoption is not happening fast enough. »
Thames Water CEO Sarah Bentley has called for drainage regulation in new developments. “The biggest factor in releasing untreated sewage into the environment is excess rain from our treatment plants, which overwhelms it. By choosing to enact Schedule 3 of the Floods and Water Management Act 2010, the government can significantly reduce the rate of surface water discharge into our network, which means more capacity available for new connections for new developments and reduced risk of spills from combined sewer overflows.
Water companies have been criticized for paying generous bonuses to their CEOs without ending the sewage scandal. Last week it was revealed that companies were dumping sewage on beaches and in rivers even when it was not exceptional weather.
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