Call for sewage tax to tackle leaks into rivers

Harpenden councillors discuss river pollution.

Harpenden Lib Dem Councillors Pip Liver and Paul De Kort discuss river pollution with Kristian Gavan and Lib Dem prospective Parliamentary candidate Sam Collins. - Credit: Harpenden Lib Dems

Water companies should face a 'sewage tax' to clean up local rivers, says Harpenden's Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate.

Thames Water, which services Harpenden, made £488 million last year, but in 2020 the company is reported to have dumped sewage 18,443 times.

Overflows are designed to operate automatically when the sewer network and sewage works are about to be overwhelmed, and release diluted wastewater into rivers rather than letting it back up into people’s homes.

Now the Lib Dems are demanding a ‘sewage tax’ of 16 per cent on water companies to create an emergency fund for cleaning up rivers like the Ver and Lea.

Harpenden candidate Sam Collins said: “It is disgraceful to see companies which pollute our local rivers with sewage make so much money last year. I think Thames Water should pay to clean up the mess they make here.

“This Conservative government is just letting Thames Water get away with it. The Government is taking us for granted and doing nothing to protect our local rivers."

He has been joined in his campaign by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper, who said:  “Water companies made billions of pre-tax profits last year despite polluting our rivers with dangerous levels of sewage.

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“Our precious chalk streams here in St Albans and across Herts are currently in crisis and the dumping of sewage needs to stop. It’s high time that these companies stump up the cash to clean up their own mess instead of passing the bill on to the taxpayer.”

But Thames Water insists they are doing everything they can to tackle sewage dumping.

A spokesperson said: “Our aim will always be to try and do the right thing for rivers and for the communities who love and value them.

"It’s our view that discharges of untreated sewage are simply unacceptable, even when they are legally permitted, and we’ll work with the government, Ofwat and the Environment Agency to accelerate work to stop them being necessary.

“We have an unprecedented amount of investment directed towards safeguarding our rivers and streams. Between 2020 and 2025 we are spending £1.25 billion on maintaining and improving our operational sites. We have a long way to go – and we certainly can’t do it on our own – but the ambition is clear.”