Thérèse Coffey singles out water company for sewage spills

Aren’t the Government and South West Water “tarred by the same brush” so to speak ? – Owl



Adam Vaughan, Environment Editor

Thérèse Coffey has singled out South West Water for her anger over sewage being spilled in rivers and the sea.

It is rare for ministers to attack individual companies for their record on water pollution, but Coffey, the environment secretary, told MPs that she was annoyed about the firm’s record on dumping sewage, calling it unacceptable.

South West Water, which provides sewage services to Devon, Cornwall and a small part of Dorset and Somerset, is being investigated by Ofwat. The water regulator has said the number of storm overflows spilling sewage is “shocking”.

Speaking to the environmental audit committee of MPs, Coffey said: “I’m particularly vexated by one of the water companies where they have 10 per cent of their storm discharge overflows spilling out more than 100 times a year. That’s not acceptable. I know the Environment Agency is working with that water company in particular to try and assess that.”

She did not mention South West Water by name. However, the most recent official data on storm overflows discharges, for 2021, shows it is the only wastewater company to have more than 10 per cent of its overflows spilling more than 100 times a year. The figure for South West Water is 10.4 per cent. United Utilities, which covers the north west of England, is the only other company that comes close, at 9.5 per cent.

Coffey also took a swipe at football pundit Gary Lineker, branding him irresponsible for sharing a Liberal Democrat tweet about water pollution. The tweet, which came after MPs voted on putting water quality targets into law last month, said Tory MPs “had voted to allow sewage dumping by water companies in our rivers and coasts for at least 15 more years”. Lineker had retweeted the post and said: “Why on earth would you do this?”

Coffey told the select committee: “I’m conscious Gary Lineker has a lot of fans for his football commentary and love of crisps. But . . . just retweeting a . . . false social media message put out by the Liberal Democrats was not particularly responsible. That’s his choice. But it just doesn’t help, people peddling nonsense.”

Conservative MPs have privately rounded on Coffey over the claim they had voted for sewage dumping. The Spectator reported that one Tory MP told her “we have walked into another social media drive-by on sewage because nobody thought to look for the obvious bear traps in advance”.

Coffey has come in for criticism from some quarters on her record on water pollution since taking up her role in October last year. Lord Hollick, chairman of the House of Lords regulators committee and a Labour supporter, put it to her last month that her department had “left consumers up shit creek” on the issue.

She has subsequently insisted that she does “give a shit” about water pollution, and has promised a “plan for water” later this year. “Like many campaigners, I want to see cleaner rivers, I want to see cleaner oceans,” she told MPs today.

South West Water and the Liberal Democrats were contacted for comment.

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