When the Water Industry in Britain was made ready for privatisation, with lots of trendy adverts and humour hiding a vast amount of public investment being sold off on the cheap to investors who hoped to make ‘Loads-a-money’, I wonder if any of those investors, or even the Companies formed from that privatisation, ever dreamt that a brave man would lose his life because of their greed and concentration upon the ‘Bottom Line’ of profit before everything?
United Utilities owns and runs, amongst many other capital items, Thirlmere Reservoir in Cumbria. Thirlmere supplies, through high level outlets and pumpsets, a large proportion of Manchester’s water. U.U. was asked in 2005 to hold the levels at Thirlmere dam to approximately three yards below top level, so as to accommodate extra water flow in times of heavy rain, and thus prevent the spillways being utilised to take overflow rainwater away from the full dam. This U.U. refused to do, as they would have had to invest in new pumpsets to supply Manchester.
So the forecast rains fell upon the Lakeside fells, drained into an already-overflowing Thirlmere Dam; overflowing because the aqueduct to Manchester was closed for repair work. As there was no spare capacity in the reservoir, all the extra water overflowed down the spillways, as it had done from October last year. That extra water made the St. John’s Beck, the outflow from Thirlmere, into a raging torrent, and this water, combined with the extra water from Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite, slammed into Cockermouth and Workington!
Police Constable Bill Barker died doing his duty, but will the bill for that sacrifice ever be paid by United Utilities?