A Tough Solution for the Sewage in Our Rivers


Water companies could face unlimited fines for dumping sewage under government plans due to be unveiled in the coming days. I’m sory, but this ‘talk tough’ message from this so-called Government comes about thirty-five years too late. 

I used to work directly inside some of the major British water companies, so I know exactly what was needed thirty-five years ago, and what is still needed now. I supervised, when at Welsh Water, the upgrade to a dilapidated run-down sewage works, an upgrade to the civil, mechanical, electrical and electronic gear so that it complied with the call to treat the raw sewage which used to flow, unchecked in heavy rain conditions, straight into the streams and river leading the the sea. 

The works took eighteen months to build and equip, and it worked fine, but it was still too small to cope with heavy rain condition. There were two overflow tanks, each the size of about four football fields, which was where the heavy flood water was directed, but they always overflowed, and the untreated sewage still flowed into the sea.

To cope with the constant heavy overflow condition, the plant needs to be upgraded again, an increased in capacity for both treatment and flood storage by around 150% of its present day load. The costs would be around £7.5 to £9 millions, just for the plant alone; and the land purchase would be in the region of about £15 millions. Multiply these two costs by around at least one thousand for the sites in England and Wales and you are looking at a figure topping £24 billions. 

Then you must gaze at the largely foreign-owned water companies, who have taken out dividends of around £1.8 billions every year for the past thirty five years, making a grubby total of around £63 billions; and possibly a great deal more..

So if the dividends had been halved, making a total of £31.5 billions, that would really have covered the cost of around ninety percent of the funds needed to upgrade that 1,000 sewage sites.

So, all the Minister has to do is to state to the major water companies, floating happily on that self-same sewage, that there will be NO Dividends until all that work is complete and tested. The Government has the power to give OfWat, the Regulator, that power: let them carry on and make the water companies do the upgrades: out of their own greasy pockets, and with NO increase in the Water Bills.