Bounties for water bosses in England rose 20% last year despite sewer failures | Utilities

Annual bonuses paid to water company executives rose 20% in 2021, although most companies fell short of wastewater pollution targets.

Figures show that on average executives received £100,000 in one-off payments on top of their pay, during a period when dirty water was pumped for 2.7 million hours from rivers and the bathing places of England.

Analysis of water companies’ annual reports has revealed that their bonus pool for executives now stands at over £600,000 per company on average.

In total, the 22 water bosses have paid themselves £24.8m, including £14.7m in bonuses, benefits and incentives, in 2021-22.

Sewage discharges have continued to ravage the country’s coastline this summer, with holidaymakers urged to stay away from the sea at some beaches this week. The data suggests recent releases have taken place in coastal areas of Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon, Essex, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Northumberland and Sussex.

Devon’s beaches are among those where locals and visitors have been told not to swim due to human waste being pumped into the ocean.

Severn Trent paid the highest bonus, base salary and benefits payments to executives, topping the charts at £5,939,300, and United Utilities came second, paying £4,218,000.

Richard Foord, MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, saw beaches in his constituency marked unsafe this week following sewage discharges, and said: ‘Locals and holidaymakers should not be forced to swim among human waste. Devon’s beaches are some of the best in the world, but the government turns a blind eye while private companies destroy them.

The south coast has been hit particularly hard by sewage spills, with Sussex facing beach closures.

MPs from Sussex have written to Southern Water and the Environment Agency asking them to respect and protect the coast.

They called for a plan to end discharges, adding: “In addition to the obvious environmental and community impact, the closure of popular beaches and restrictions on inland waterways are causing financial loss for the many businesses that rely on our beaches and our rivers”.

Brighton & Hove City Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty has called for urgent action by Southern Water after human waste was dumped in a marine protected area.

“Like many, I am disgusted by the scenes of raw sewage being pumped into the sea at Seaford. This marks another sad and hard day for our environment.

“Seaford is in what is called a Marine Protected Area, an area specifically created to protect wildlife and fragile habitats. Southern Water urgently needs an explanation.

“The dumping of sewage into the sea doesn’t just harm wildlife, it affects everything from our health to public safety to the local economy. It is in all of our interests that this Victorian malpractice stops now.

New sewage warnings were issued in popular holiday destinations on Thursday, with the Isle of Wight particularly affected. There were spills, according to the Surfers Against Sewage map, at 12 different locations around the island, with swimmers warned they could get sick if they went into the sea.

Sailor Mary Phillips lives on the Isle of Wight and said: ‘I live near a beach which has been marked ‘no go’ due to sewage dumping this week. Such a loss – many people enjoy walking, relaxing, swimming – especially in this hot weather. Here on the Isle of Wight we have had very little rain so it is ridiculous to blame storm flooding.

Hugo Tagholm, head of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Water companies have gone from extreme drought to extreme sewage pollution.

“Years of underinvestment are now clearly visible. It’s time the huge profits of water companies were diverted to managing water and sewage properly, and protecting people and the planet.

“Our rivers and beaches should not be subjected to this type of industrial environmental vandalism.”

Last year Southern Water was fined a record £90million after admitting deliberately dumping large quantities of sewage into the sea on the south coast.

Thames Water has come under fire for failing to fix leaky pipes, with a garden hose ban coming into force next week for its customers, and last year awarded executives £3million in bonuses, base salary and other benefits.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Tim Farron said: “This is a national outrage. These filthy polluting habits have made beaches dangerous in the middle of the summer holidays and harmed Britain’s precious wildlife.

“Garden hose bans could have been avoided this summer if these water company CEOs had bothered to invest in their rusty pipes rather than putting profits in their pockets.

“They put profit before the environment. Frankly, it all stinks.

In a July report, the Environment Agency said water company bosses should be jailed for the worst pollution incidents, describing the sector’s performance in 2021 as the “worst we’ve seen in years”. years”.

The agency said this week that the risk of surface water flooding from sudden heavy rains “reinforces the need for vigorous action by water companies to reduce discharges from storm overflows.”

A spokesperson for Water UK said: “Companies agree that urgent action is needed to tackle the damage to the environment caused by storm overflow discharges and sewage treatment works. They are investing more than £3billion to improve overflows as part of a wider national program to improve the environment between 2020 and 2025, and leaks are at an all time low with further reductions important planned each year.

“All water company executive bonuses are performance-based and reflect results for customers and the environment. Private investment has brought more than £160bn to a previously cash-strapped industry, while improving water utility efficiency by more than 70%. This efficiency means lower costs, allowing bills to remain roughly the same for over a decade in real terms, while enabling new investment in resilience projects and reduced leakage.

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