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Mythbuster 3 - Water companies don't pollute on purpose. Wrong!

Somehow, water company bosses and regulators have created the impression that pollution is all very regrettable and they wish it wouldn't happen.

WASP's analyst, Prof Peter Hammond's latest investigation ventured over the border into Wales, working with Afonyyd Cymru (Welsh Rivers Trust) to show how Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water) was dumping sewage for very long periods for years.

He found that Cardigan was particularly bad, spilling for more than 200 days each year from 2019-2022.

The other massive message that shines out from this work and the follow-up by the BBC is that water company pollution in Wales results from deliberate commercial decisions. We have seen many similar situations in England among the shareholder-led companies that have failed to invest in favour of taking cash out of the companies as bonuses and dividends, often contrary to Ofwat (the economic regulator) licenses - but they have been allowed to get away with it - and they are still being allowed to get away with deliberate and profitable criminality.

Here is Peter's excellent graphic on the Welsh story.

Here is his report

Welsh Water Summary
Download PDF • 751KB

The story was put together by the BBC's Environment Correspondent, Jonah Fisher who has filmed with WASP before and knows the subject well - He produced this piece which was aired on morning TV.

Full story here

The vital comment extracted from the company by the BBC, was this:

When presented with the findings Welsh Water admitted it has between 40 and 50 wastewater treatment plants currently operating in breach of their permits. It said decisions on which plants to improve were taken with customer bills in mind, and that because there is "no measurable environmental impact" of the Cardigan estuary spills, these have been a low priority.

Of course, the assessment of environmental impact is a nonsensical one used to try to justify the crime in the same way that someone driving at 70 MPH down the high street might say; 'well no one was injured.' And we know how hard it is to pin down deaths and injury to marine life or to breeding cycles and food chains, which is why permits were established to try to protect them in the first place. Basically, Welsh Watter's leadership just knew they could get away with it as pollution that would look shocking on land was hidden beneath the waves.

So a water CEO is confident, as they are in England, to break the law and appears to be so certain that he will not be prosecuted that he will openly admit it. In England, we often hear more weasel words but we know that none of the Directors are ever investigated for their roles in the crime despite Crown Court Judges remarking on how obviously they are implicated.

And Regulation?

The Environmental regulator in Wales is Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and to its credit, it fielded a rep to the BBC where in England the Environment Agency hides behind written statements that are often untrue but go unchallenged, and uses unjustified secrecy to try to block scrutiny.

In Wales a more professional and open attitude seems to be developing - including to NRWs compliance with Freedom of Information law for which its English counterpart, the EA, is subject to an Enforcement Order by the Information Commissioner for failing to obey the law - yes, that is really happening.

Interestingly,Welsh Water is apparently built on a not-for-profit model, having had serious financial problems in the past but its bosses still take the big bucks:

We are very interested to understand how genuine this 'not for profit' claim is and where the money goes as we are in England where millions of pounds buy very little, so this story will develop.

Keep watching - WASP will keep dragging up the dirt about the 'illegalised' (new word) scam that is the privatised water industry - and there is plenty more to come.



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