The chair of UK water companies’ response to sewage spills is causing a stink

The chair of UK water companies’ response to sewage spills is causing a stink
Water companies apologise for sewage spills in English rivers

The industry body representing UK water companies – called, perhaps predictably, Water UK – has issued an apology for sewage spillages in England’s rivers, but for many members of the public, the latest move just doesn’t wash with them.

Environment Agency figures released earlier this year found that for 2022, there were an average of 824 sewage spills a day, with a total of 301,091 spills for the year as a whole.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Water UK chair Ruth Kelly said: “The message from the water and sewage industry today is clear: we are sorry.

“More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches. We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right.

“This problem cannot be fixed overnight, but we are determined to do everything we can to transform our rivers and seas in the way we all want to see.”

Part of the “unprecedented plan” is to secure new funding to the tune of £10bn this decade, though that prompted more controversy when Ms Kelly told BBC Breakfast that “over 50 years” or “perhaps even longer, up to 100 years” customers will contribute to that investment.

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When presenter Naga Munchetty asked why they should spend a century paying to deal with sewage issues, Ms Kelly – a former Labour politician - replied: “If you wanted to invest in a house you have to borrow to invest and get a mortgage and pay that back.

“You do need to provide shareholders with some sort of return over the long term, but we’re very, very conscious of the upward potential pressure on customers.”

Yet Twitter users still aren’t happy – especially not with shareholders:

So the morning news round hasn’t gone too swimmingly, then…

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