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Thames Water faces humiliation

November 28, 2008 at 1:48 am

A new website has been set up by environmental group, WaterWatch, to allow Oxford residents to voice their concerns about Thames Water. The website forms part of the Liberal Democrat’s campaign website and was created as a response to worsening relations between the water company and its customers.

Thames Water has been blamed for all sorts of things over the past few months, including burst water mains, extensive urban flooding, and the failure to prevent the contamination of water sources with raw human sewage. However, despite persistent complaints to the local council, the company has yet to alleviate the numerous concerns of the local residents.

The Liberal Democrat councillors, Ruth Wilkinson and David Rundle, have pledged to humiliate Thames Water by compiling a list of its offences and they plan to take action to prevent further incidents occurring. The water company has attempted to circumvent the plan by asking affected customers to contact its help desk as soon as possible.

Noel Hodson, a resident of Headington, Oxford, has complained numerous times about a sewage problem affecting a brook at the foot of his garden. He expressed his support for the new campaign and highlighted the need for a better sewerage system in the local area.

“I think it’s a good idea”, Mr. Hodson was quoted as saying. He continued to reveal his belief that “anything that makes it easier for people to highlight their problems will help make the city a better place.”

Oxford residents (particularly those who live in the towns of Headington and Marston) who have a problem with Thames Water have been encouraged to contact their local Liberal Democrat councillors at the Oxford WaterWatch website.

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Water companies asked to step up infrastructure spending

November 19, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Water companies in both England and Wales have been urged by the Environment Agency to increase the amount of money spent on infrastructure maintenance. The agency is keen for the companies to increase their spending in an effort to reduce pollution as well as the impact of flooding. This latter issue is a particular problem as many water treatment and sewage works are located within close proximity of major rivers. With regards to pollution, last year a fifth of the serious pollution incidents seen across the country were caused by neglect on behalf of water companies. Many of these incidents occurred as a result of poorly maintained sewage infrastructure.

The announcement from the Environment Agency came after water companies across England and Wales submitted their business plans for the five years following 2010. The plans were handed to Ofwat, the industry regulator in charge of determining the prices customers are charged for water and waste services, and the Environment Agency was subsequently informed of the contents.

Although the Environment Agency was pleased with the general content of the plans, officials believe that the companies need to work harder to reduce water demand. Furthermore, the water companies need to use their resources in a more efficient and appropriate manner. The director of water management at the Environment Agency, David King, believes that water companies will not be able to increase their spending to an adequate level within one pricing period, but instead a process of continued investment will need to take place.

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Anglian Water Fined £150,000

November 13, 2008 at 9:44 am

The largest regional water company in England and Wales has been fined for failing to prevent damage to the local environment. Anglian Water allowed twice the recommended amount of ammonia to seep into the Soham Lode from an unattended sewage plant in Newmarket.

The company has been charged with the death of 1,200 fish and fined £150,000 (£125 per fish). An additional £28,973 has been paid to the Environmental Agency to cover court costs.

The company website asserts that every effort is usually made to limit the impact of permanent installations on the environment: “we have a moral duty to protect and, where possible, enhance the local catchment area.” In the wake of the recent court battle, Anglian Water’s pledge to protect the wetland landscape and the fifty Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the area seems a tad hypocritical.

Anglian Water is no stranger to the judicial system. Its owners have appeared in court over eighty times during the last eighteen years. Earlier this year, the company was criticised for allowing a rabbit into a water tank. This mistake resulted in the worst cryptosporidiosis outbreak the world has ever seen.

Cryptosporidium, a parasite, causes gastro-intestinal illness in humans and is an exceptionally rare condition. Anglian Water is responsible for over 94% of all known cases of cryptosporidiosis.

The prosecution blasted the company for failing to adhere to fundamental safety regulations and for attempting to falsify records. Judge John Holt pointed out that Anglian Water had failed to respond to automated alarms warning of the impending ammonia leak. The Newmarket plant had no back-up pumps (they had been ‘inadvertently’ turned off), and tons of sewage were diverted into the Soham waterway.

Anglian Water has apologised for the incident.

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Leicestershire drying up

November 6, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Severn-Trent Water has announced plans to build a £30 million pipeline across Leicestershire in an effort to put an end to growing concerns about the county’s long-term water supply. The new proposal includes plans to circumvent ‘bottlenecks’ in the existing plumbing whilst improving connections between Leicestershire and the reservoirs in the Peak District.

Leicester city council has approved plans to construct a number of new housing estates in the Oadby area, a move which Severn-Trent believes has compounded water supply issues by increasing overall demand. In the same report, the water company warned that it could face a total deficit of 29 million litres of water unless the existing piping was upgraded within the next ten years.

A spokesperson for Severn-Trent explained that climate change was a key factor in the impending drought but made no pledge to limit the company’s impact on the environment. Independent environmental group, Waterwise, believes that companies like Severn-Trent should concentrate on reducing the amount of water that their consumers waste rather than “building their way out of trouble.”

If Seven-Trent’s new pipeline is approved, water rates may need to increase to compensate for the extra cost of the 20-mile-long underground pipe. The industry regulator, OFWAT, will be consulted regarding the legality of the price rise and their decision will determine whether or not Severn-Trent is allowed to build the extra pipeline.

Severn-Trent is hoping to produce an additional 60 million litres of water per day. This figure would allow it to provide water for a further 100,000 people.

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