We recently covered the mess the government has got into on the regulation of sewage discharges into rivers and seas see http://southsuffolklibdems.org.uk/en/article/2021/1417718/objections-down-the-pan
A House of Lords amendment seeking to force water companies to reduce such discharges over time was rejected by Tory MPs
After public outrage the government has relented a little passing a new amendment yesterday. The amendment reads : "A sewerage undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in England must secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impact of discharges from the undertaker's storm overflows … reducing adverse impacts on the environment, and reducing adverse impacts on public health."
We needed to see legislation with real teeth today which gave water companies hard deadlines and targets. but as you can see the government's compromise is too weak and does not impose a legal duty on water companies to stop releasing raw sewage into waterways.
Water companies pumped polluting and harmful raw sewage in national water sources over 400,000 times last year. The River Trust reveals more than half of England's rivers are currently failing to pass cleanliness tests due to water companies actions. However, the government is proposing taxpayers foot the bill for sewage system improvements, instead of water companies.
To address this the Liberal Democrats have called for a "Sewage Tax" which would tax the profits of water companies, which last year made pre-tax profits of £2.2 billion despite polluting Britain's rivers with dangerous levels of sewage. The proposal would be a 16% tax on pre-tax profits, providing a £340 million fund to fix the sewage system - this would be in addition to the current 19% rate of corporation tax.
For example, Southern Water, which makes the most profit of England's water companies, would have paid £70 million in 2020.
Thames Water, the company which made £434 million pre-tax profit in 2020, would also pay £70 million in Sewage Tax after pumping raw sewage into the River Wey near Guildford for an estimated 1789 hours last year.
Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey MP, has called for the new Sewage Tax to save local rivers and lakes:
Pumping raw sewage into our treasured rivers and lakes leaves a bad taste in the mouth, particularly when these companies are raking in millions of pounds in profits. The whole thing stinks.
Water companies need to clean up after their mess. Why should taxpayers be left to foot the bill for water companies who have shown utter disregard for our local environments?
The Tories plan to introduce a new 'duty' on these companies will do nothing to stop them dumping sewage for years to come. We can't wait any longer. More dither and delay could cause irreversible damage to wildlife and precious natural habits.
You can support our campaign at Stop Sewage Dumping (libdems.org.uk)