What a Total Shit Show

New data released by the Environment Agency, today, shows that water companies were responsible for pouring sewage into river, lakes, estuaries and our seas a disgusting 372,500 times in 2021. That’s an eye watering 2.6 million hours of sewage flowing into some of our most treasured ecosystems, where wildlife should be free to flourish and where we love to surf, swim and play.

This is ecological vandalism at a shameless scale. And so goes another day in the total shit show of the UK water industry.

We’ve seen a bit of a overall decrease on 2020 figures but we suspect this is due to the fact that we have had a dryer year rather than any action being taken by the industry.

Shockingly, 50% of sewage overflows pumped out sewage over 40 times. And one in five  sewage overflows spewed out sewage over 60 times per year. At this rate, an Environment Agency (EA) investigation should be triggered. But we know that the EA has had its budgets slashed and are unable to enforce properly. Allowing the water industry to ‘self-monitor’ is simply allowing them to keep pumping out pollution while pocketing the dirty profits.

A culture of contempt for the environment

The new data shows the extent of the sewage pollution scandal and shines an ever-brighter spotlight on the complete contempt the water industry has for the environment. At the end of last year, we saw the launch one of the largest investigations the EA has ever launched, looking into over 2,000 water treatment works for illegally discharging sewage. And, as we speak, United Utilities are fighting the water industry’s dirty battle in the courts. Can you believe that they’re trying to make it even harder for NGOs, campaigners and people like you and me to hold water companies to account? They’re looking to close the door on legal challenges against water companies for dumping untreated sewage into waterways. But campaigners are fighting back.

And to top it all off, a few days ago, Liv Garfield, CEO of Severn Trent, was quoted in The Telegraph saying that water companies haven’t done more to end sewage pollution ‘because it was not on their customers’ priority list’ and that the issue had not risen to public consciousness until 2020. It was subsequently revealed that the issue of sewage pollution and protecting the environment was high up on Severn Trent customer priority lists years ago, as indicated in their very own surveys back in 2017. They are out of touch with the public and their own intelligence. We’re pretty sure that customers haven’t been calling for eye-watering water company pay and profits but this has never stopped them.

Commenting on the EA data release, Hugo Tagholm, CEO at Surfers Against Sewage says:

“Millions of hours of untreated sewage are destroying our waterways and yet water company bosses have the gall to say “but this wasn’t on our customers priority list”. Water company CEOs and their hedge fund shareholders are creaming off extortionate profits whilst we all are left choking on their sewage pollution that’s making us, and our environment, sick. We will not allow polluters to kick this into the long grass any longer. We demand that water companies reinvest their profits into restoring our blue spaces for nature and people.”

Taking the fight to the polluters

Water companies are making rampant profits at the expense the health of our rivers, ocean and people. At a time when many are struggling with the escalating cost of living and relying more and more on nature for mental health and wellbeing, this has to stop. We need radical action and we need it now.

We won’t stop taking the fight to the profiteering polluters until we see an end to sewage pollution. So, on the 23rd April, thousands of water lovers will be taking to the streets across the country, marching in 11 protests against 11 of the major water companies. The proud British public, raising their voice for people and planet and demanding water companies ACT NOW to end sewage pollution.

Commenting on the sewage scandal, Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns & Policy at SAS, says:

“This wilful destruction of the UK’s rivers and seas will not simply be washed away with tomorrow’s news cycle. People across the UK demand an end to sewage pollution and will be coming together in mass protest on 23rd April – we urge everyone who cares for our rivers and seas to join us in telling the profiteering polluters of the water industry just what we think of them”

Stand up and make your voice heard for our rivers and ocean. Find your nearest protest here.