Environment Secretary Therese Coffey says she is ‘pretty fed up’ with water companies after they issued public apology for ‘not acting quickly enough’ on sewage spills
- Water firms last week announced a £10 billion plan to reduce sewage discharges
- Therese Coffey appeared to accept bill-payers will have to pick up ‘a lot’ of costs
- READ MORE: How much sewage is being dumped in the seas near you?
The Environment Secretary Therese Coffey has said she is ‘pretty fed up’ with water companies and that it was right for the sector to have apologised for not tackling sewage spills quickly enough.
Water firms in England last week announced a £10 billion plan to reduce the number of sewage discharges into rivers and seas, with over 300,000 instances last year alone, while also apologising for the pollution.
But Ms Coffey appeared to accept that bill-payers will have to pick up ‘a lot’ of the cost of improving infrastructure designed to prevent sewage entering seas and waterways.
She added that fines that private companies are ordered could see bill-payers reimbursed, and that penalties would be paid by the private companies.
Campaigners and opposition parties expressed their anger that consumers may be charged more to foot the bill for investments, with Labour calling for the government to ‘make the polluter pay’.
Therese Coffey has said she is ‘pretty fed up’ with water companies and that it was right for the sector to have apologised for not tackling sewage spills quickly enough
There were 301,091 sewage discharges in 2022 in England which amounted to 1.75 million hours of discharge. Picture shows a jetty beneath which raw sewage had reportedly been discharged after heavy rain on August 17 last year in Seaford, England
It comes after Anglian Water said last week that customer bills were likely to rise by £91 per year to pay for the £10 billion of industry investment, with £12 of that relating to storm overflow upgrades.
Storm overflow outlets, of which there are 15,000 in England, currently release excess sewage and rainwater when under strain, to prevent sewers becoming overloaded and backing up into homes.
Ms Coffey, asked on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme whether it was correct to say consumers would foot the bill for the improvement works, said: ‘It’s going to be a combination.
‘Of course penalties and fines are paid for by the company, not by the bill-payer.
‘But in terms of general payments, I think you’re right to say that a lot of this investment gets repaid through bills.’
The Environment Secretary said the £10 billion announced by the private sector would feed into an overall UK Government £56 million storm overflow plan.
She has called on water firms to have an action plan for ‘every single storm overflow’ on her desk by the end of next month.
Campaigners, including Surfer’s Against Sewage, have called on water companies and the government to do more to stop the pollution
There were 301,091 sewage discharges in 2022 in England which amounted to 1.75 million hours of discharge, according to Environment Agency figures, though they do not include the volume of sewage.
The Government’s storm overflows discharge reduction plan, published in August 2022, aims to eliminate sewage dumping by 2050 while cutting discharges close to ‘high priority’ areas by 75 per cent by 2035 and 100 per cent by 2045.
READ MORE: Water bosses issue grovelling apology after millions of tons of sewage is dumped in Britain’s rivers and coasts
Ms Coffey used an interview on the BBC to criticise the record of other countries within the UK on dealing with sewage leaks.
She told the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: ‘Frankly, we would not even know about this if it wasn’t for a Conservative Government insisting on the monitoring and the publication of that data.
‘We’re not seeing that in Scotland. And frankly on average, the frequency of sewage flows is happening far more in Wales than it is in England.’
Monitoring stations for Welsh Water, a non-profit organisation, show the company discharged sewage for 602,987 hours in 2022, while publicly owned Scottish Water recorded 14,008 spills in 2022 amounting to 113,230 hours.
Northern Ireland is not required to produce the same data
Put to her that the European Environment Agency ranked UK bathing waters the worst on the continent, Ms Coffey said that was ‘not true’.
‘We now have 92.9% of our bathing waters designated good or excellent – that was last summer,’ she said.
Ms Coffey used an interview on the BBC to criticise the record of other countries within the UK on dealing with sewage leaks
‘That’s up from 70% in 2010. There has absolutely been investment and work to make sure that our bathing waters are getting cleaner and cleaner.’
Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Jim McMahon, has criticised Ms Coffey and the government’s record today in a series of scathing tweets.
‘The Tories have the power to force an end to the #SewageScandal and to make the polluter pay,’ he wrote following Ms Coffey’s interview.
Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Jim McMahon, has criticised Ms Coffey and the government’s record today (file image)
Referring to the Water Quality bill introduced by Labour earlier this month, he added: ‘They voted down a Labour plan to do just that, and for all the talk it’s business as usual – bumper dividends, bills up and decades of dumping. It stinks.’
The Liberal Democrats have called for Ms Coffey to issue her own apology for the number of sewage discharges being permitted on the Tory Government’s watch.
The party’s environment spokesman Tim Farron said: ‘The sewage scandal is a damning verdict on the Government’s failure to protect our treasured rivers and lakes.
‘While the water companies have apologised, Therese Coffey has still failed to.
‘She oversees a Government that continues to let water companies dump outrageous amounts of sewage into our rivers.’
Source: Read Full Article