Surfers Against Sewage blame water companies for unregulated CSOs

January 19, 2010 | Environment

Dom Ferris of Surfers Against Sewage

Clean water campaigners Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) were on hand to greet water company executives with the walk of shame as they entered the appeal hearing today.

6 water companies are trying to defend the indefensible, by appealing against designated discharge consents for 4,000 combined sewer overflows (CSOs). SAS were armed with a giant 6ft by 4ft photo of a CSO clogged full of sanitary towels, condoms, cotton buds sticks and more. The appeal is expected to last for 4 days.

Today SAS campaigners were in wetsuits with surfboards to welcome water company executives as they enter the appeal at the entrance to the Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff. They were armed with a 6ft by 4ft image of a disgusting CSO jammed full of sanitary towels, condoms and worse.

The majority of water companies were aiming to escape environmental regulations set for thousands of their CSOs. The companies involved are; Anglian Water, Yorkshire Water, Welsh Water/Dwr Cymru, Thames Water and Severn Trent Water.

Whilst the majority of the 20,000 CSOs in England and Wales have seen some improvement and operate under a discharge to consent, there are many that are still operating on their own terms, causing unknown environmental damage. These unregulated CSOs were given temporary licences, known as deemed consents, to help speed up the process of privatising the water industry 20 years ago.

The water industry knew then, that at some point, these unregulated CSOs would have to be brought into line and earlier this year the Environment Agency set about the task of issuing new conditions for their use.

The Environment Agency conditions do not require excessive investment yet, after 20 years of leniency, rather than embrace the decision with good grace the water companies involved were appealing against 94% of the discharge consents!

SAS are furious that these companies believed they should be allowed to continue to pollute without fear of prosecution. They’ve had twenty years notice that these CSOs will have to be regulated, yet rather than face the music, they chose to protest en mass.

SAS has written to the Secretary of State for the Environment to express our concern both for the environment and public health should the water companies be successful in their appeal.

Andy Cummins, SAS Campaign Director says: “By Appealing these discharges the water companies are asking for a free rein to pollute our seas and rivers, that’s not appealing to us! The water companies have had 20 years to sort this out, in that time they’ve enjoyed handsome profits, isn’t it about time they looked after the environment and public health as well as their bottom line.”

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