In the aftermath of yet another Sewage Scandal this week, where the country heard that water companies pumped raw sewage into Britain’s seas and rivers for more than 2.6m hours last year, I spoke again in Parliament to outline the depth of the problem in our nation’s water systems.
The Government has consistently used the excuse that it would cost £660 billion to upgrade our sewers, but I argued that the actual cost over ten years, as estimated by a leaked report from the Storm Overflow Task Force, would be £21.7bn. Since privatisation, over £72bn has been paid out in dividends to shareholders rather than reinvested into the core infrastructure that helps release pressure when subjected to heavy rains.
It’s clear, the Government are unwilling to make the water companies pay for the upgrades needed and are happy to let CEOs and shareholders siphon money out of our system.
I thought it was important to remind the Government that the European Court of Justice ruled in 2012 that the UK had failed to fulfil its obligations and breached standards for treating wastewater in relation to the sewage dumping at this location. And that in 2020, the European Court of Justice found again that the levels of sewage dumping at Whitburn continued to breach standards.
That is why I led an adjournment debate on the subject in October last year when the Tories voted in favour of a plan that allowed sewage dumping into our rivers and oceans – and now we have seen the consequences of reckless treatment of our natural resources. Rivers and oceans unsafe for swimming in and untold ecological damaged caused by raw sewage to biological and marine life.
In the nine years that I have been the MP for South Shields and part of this campaign alongside constituent Mr Latimer and the Whitburn Residents Forum, I have seen us stonewalled by various Departments, bodies, companies, Secretaries of State and Ministers who claim this sewage dumping is a figment of our imagination. It is not. We know that, because we live there.
In my recent Shields Gazette column, I called for the nationalisation of water companies at a cost of an estimated £14.5 billion, in order to take back control of our infrastructure and protect our rivers, lakes and oceans.