£180 million investment promised by water companies to prevent sewage spills

WATER companies’ commitments to invest more than £180 million to tackle sewage spills must ensure that it’s not left to consumers to pay to clean up the mess, campaigners have said.

Fast-tracked investment made by several water companies in England will support the effort to introduce storm overflow prevention measures by April 2025.

These include artificial intelligence systems, accelerated wetland programmes, installing new in-sewer monitors and recruiting and training specialist staff.

The government announced the firms’ commitment today. It said it expects the measures to prevent more than 8,000 spills from polluting English waterways.

Since water utilities were privatised in 1989, government and regulators have failed to ensure adequate investment in the industry’s infrastructure as bosses have instead chosen to line the pockets of themselves and their shareholders.

Anglian will invest £50m, Severn Trent will invest £41m, Southern will invest £10m, South West will invest £32m, United Utilities will invest £39m and Wessex will invest £8m.

Companies such as Northumbrian and Yorkshire Water have not announced new fast-tracked spending but announced plans for extra investment to tackle storm overflows this year.

The spending will add to the water companies’ previous £3.1 billion investment for the period of 2020 to 2025.

It is the latest move to tackle concerns over levels of pollution being dumped into rivers, lakes and around the coasts from sources including overflow pipes and processing plants, causing harm to wildlife and the health of beachgoers as well as affecting tourism and leisure industries.

Surfers Against Sewage chief Giles Bristow welcomed the plans, saying: “The informed and angry voices of constituents across the UK are clearly making those in power listen and take visible actions to address the sewage scandal.

“[But] questions still remain on the scale and scope of the government’s ambitions for our rivers and seas.

“We’ll be watching closely to ensure that it’s the polluters, not the consumer, that pays to clean up this mess.”

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