In 2020 Southern Water released untreated sewage directly into rivers on 19,782 occasions, totalling almost 200,000 hours. Even more frightening is that such practices continue to enjoy Government protection as a recent amendment to the Environment Bill which would force water companies to stop allowing untreated releases was rejected by Conservative MPs.
Across the UK, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens have signed petitions to change the rules and penalise water companies much more heavily. This week Liberal Democrats from Test Valley and Southampton added their voice during a visit to Southern Water at their Otterbourne HQ. A petition signed by 539 local residents called on Southern Water executives to hand back their sizeable bonuses and withhold shareholder dividends. In the face of a climate emergency, there should be no rewards for polluting our planet.
The Liberal Democrat team also met with Dr Toby Willison, Southern Water’s Director of Environment and Public Affairs, and the company’s Stakeholder Manager for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Steve Court, to discuss the ongoing crisis and what steps Southern Water are taking to deal with it.
David Hall, Chair of Test Valley Liberal Democrats said:
“We are grateful to Southern Water for their openness. Company executives are rightly holding themselves accountable for the unacceptable, systematic, and deliberate sewage dumping in the past. But they still have a long way to go to stop sewage entering our waterways.
“The company seems to be moving in the right direction with plans to introduce more robust monitoring of bacteria and pollution levels in our waterways, and nature-based solutions to deal with runoff from drains, roofs, and roads.
“This isn’t just about bashing water companies. Local councils, planning authorities and developers have a huge role to play in bringing forward better plans for new developments which reduce rather than add to the volumes of wastewater being pushed through a constrained system.
Thomas Gravatt, from Southampton Liberal Democrats said:
“Conservative MPs faced a huge backlash in October after voting against an amendment to the Environment Bill that sought to ban water companies from pumping sewage into our rivers. The Liberal Democrats voted for this amendment - we believe the Government needs to regulate water companies to force them to clean up their act.