“Sorry is not enough: water companies must be brought into public ownership,” is the slogan of the Green Party of England and Wales after the apologies of English water distributors who turned a blind eye to the massive discharges of sewage into the nature. This Thursday, May 18, they “apologize”. And promise billions of investments.
The Green Party has reiterated its call for water companies to be brought into public ownership.
“Rivers and coastlines up and down the country have faced years of assault at the hands of the water companies and a government that has refused to act. “Saying sorry is simply not enough – and suggesting that the public has to pay for any improvements, after £57bn has been paid out in payouts to shareholders over the last 30 years, just adds insult to injury,” lamented Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay.
It will take more to mop up the 301,091 dirty water spills recorded last year by the Environment Agency. In the event of heavy rain, emergency drain valves are supposed to allow the evacuation of the untreated overflow. A tolerated rejection, exceptionally.
But as rainy as the UK is, the 824 spills seen each day, on average, prove that distributors have blithely overdone it. Annoyed experts testify about releases in times of drought. During the heat wave last summer, some beaches even had to be closed. In July, the NGO Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) had identified 90 dirty beaches.
“Currently water companies can, almost with impunity, dump sewage into our rivers, waterways and coastal waters with an appalling cost to public health and our wildlife. This situation cannot go on,” complained Adrian Ramsay in a press release published on the Green Party website.
It should be remembered that the sanitary carnage is not new. For years, environmental activists have denounced these practices, which are devastating to biodiversity. And years that successive Conservative governments pretended not to see anything. At the end of 2021, a few days before the opening of the World Climate Conference in Glasgow (Cop26), a majority of Conservative MPs had even rejected an amendment aimed at banning these releases. Pattern ? The text did not go far enough according to its detractors, who have not lifted a finger since to cut the floodgates.
But the citizen pressure had become untenable. Summoned to act, Water UK promised, this Thursday, the most extensive modernization plan [of the water network] since the Victorian era, in the 19th century.
The equivalent of 11.5 billion euros will be released by 2030 to renovate the country’s 560,000 kilometers of sewers. A small jackpot, compared to the 3.5 billion initially planned for the maintenance of the network, between 2020 and 2025.