Severn Trent admits it should’ve ‘acted faster’ over sewage spills as it plans to pay shareholders more

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The firm said the industry should have given “much more attention” - while it plans to pay its shareholders more after a boom in profits

Severn Trent Water has admitted the industry should have given “much more attention” and “acted faster” to reduce sewage spills.

The company, which provides water services in England and Wales, has been among the water firms under fire for failing to effectively tackle spills in UK rivers and beaches.

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Last year it contributed to “monster” sewage spills in England, dumping more than 6,600 hours worth of sewage into a brook in Rutland, according to the Liberal Democrats’ analysis of Environment Agency data last month.

Back in 2021 the company was fined £1.5 million for illegal sewage discharges from four different sewage works. Now the water company says it has significantly reduced sewage spillages and is investing billions in its region to improve water and waste services.

It said the company was leading on environmental change having hit 100% of its performance pledges. It made improvements across its leakage performance, water quality complaints, and persistent low pressure and pollutions, but said external sewer flooding is a “key focus area”.

Severn Trent admits it should’ve ‘acted faster’ over sewage spills. (Photo: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire) Severn Trent admits it should’ve ‘acted faster’ over sewage spills. (Photo: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire)
Severn Trent admits it should’ve ‘acted faster’ over sewage spills. (Photo: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire) | Emily Whitfield-Wicks/PA Wire

Chief executive Liv Garfield said: “We are expecting the biggest investment period the sector has ever seen, with a focus on water resources, improving environmental standards and on net zero, and we feel more than ready for this exciting opportunity ahead of us.”

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According to the firm’s guidance, capital investment could reach between £850 million and £1 billion over the next financial year. It also said it had ramped up financial support for customers amid plans to help support 100,000 people out of poverty by 2032.

The comments come after it has been revealed the firm reported a profit before tax and interest of £509 million for the year to the end of March and an 11% boost in turnover to £2.2 billion.

Shareholder payments have also increased and are estimated to be worth more than £260 million. A dividend for the year of £1.06 per share has been put forward by the company which is 4p more per share than last year.

In 2022, Ms Garfield received a £3.9 million pay package making her the highest paid executive in the water sector.

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She said the company’s “improved financial performance came despite facing extreme weather conditions and rocketing energy prices”, adding that despite these factors the company still “kept water flowing” and has not enforced a hosepipe ban for nearly 30 years.

The apology from Severn Trent and its increase in profits follows public anger over the amount of sewage being dumped into UK rivers and seas and the “pathetic” sorry statement from the water industry.

Last week, industry body Water UK said the public was “right to be upset” about the current quality of the country’s rivers and beaches, and admitted “more should have been done”.

It announced plans to invest £10 billion for the biggest modernisation of sewers “since the Victorian era” but later pointed out that the public will have to pay towards the upgrade through increases in their bills for years.

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Mark Barrow, an underwater filmmaker at Beneath British Waters, who films sewage in UK rivers, told NationalWorld he is not “prepared to pay for a huge increase” for a problem created by water companies “so they should sort it”.

Elsewhere, Greenpeace UK’s policy director Dr Doug Parr said getting the public to pay towards fixing the sewage problem is “a very strange way of being sorry”.

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