How can the Tory government claim to be taking “urgent” action to curb river pollution when its targets are 13 and 28 years away?
Are we all expected to put up with being hip-deep in human waste in the meantime?
According to Environment Secretary George “Useless” Eustice, he’s taking “urgent” action to cut the “most damaging” overflows into rivers and the sea by 75 per cent – by 2035, with all discharges cut by 80 per cent by 2050.
If that’s “urgent” action, I’d hate to think what “Useless” describes as inconsequential!
Eustice said the government was investing £7 billion until 2025 to upgrade sewage infrastructure but admitted water bills will rise by about £12 a year to cover costs beyond that.
Didn’t the Thatcher Tory government of the 1980s, in its push to privatise water, say that bills would be cheaper and private firms would upgrade infrastructure using their profits? Yes, it did.
So why are we paying for it, in money provided by the government and directly through our own bills?
Some background: last autumn, the Tory government gave polluters the green light to dump risky sewage that has not been properly cleaned into rivers and the sea, after it turned out that Brexit had closed the UK’s borders to chemicals that are used to treat effluent.
The Conservatives followed this up by defeating Lords Amendment 45 to the then Environment Bill, which would have placed a legal duty on water companies in England and Wales “to make improvements to their sewerage systems and demonstrate progressive reductions in the harm caused by discharges of untreated sewage.“
One Conservative, This Writer’s MP Fay Jones, said the amendment would have forced taxpayers to stump up £600 billion to “dig up” and modernise the UK’s sewer system, that has remained unchanged since Victorian times (apparently).
She then blocked responses that requested a breakdown of the figures. Considering her party is now saying £7 billion will cover the work, with an increase in bills to fund further costs, I think it’s fair to say that she overinflated the figures somewhat.
Mind you, she’s not the only one who seems to have – inadvertently? – misled the public. On October 25 last year, The Big Issue published a tweet, and an article, reporting that the water companies were saying they did not know how much sewage they were dumping into England’s rivers because the technology did not exist to monitor it.
But new data released on Thursday showed that in 2021, there were more than 372,000 spill events from from storm overflows, which release untreated sewage and rainwater into the environment to ease pressure on the system.
The Environment Agency said it has made water companies fit monitors to their storm overflows in order to capture information on how they are performing. 2021 was the second year the organisation published figures so it seems the firms were being economical with the facts.
And the facts are that we are being forced to live in our own effluent – along with muck imported from the Netherlands, due to EU restrictions on what can be dumped there – while water companies that are mostly owned by foreign governments coin it in.
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