By Brian Pain
In August 2013, Southern Water our friendly local wastewater treatment company, was fined £2.7 million for deliberate sewage dumps.
Sentencing guidelines for environmental offences were updated in 2014 to allow for higher fines, suggesting penalties for up to £3M for the most serious deliberate offences by large companies, though allowing judges to go beyond this for the largest companies with turnovers above £50M.
Last year they were fined a record £90M for the deliberate dumping of billions of litres of raw sewage off the north Kent and Hampshire coasts between 2010 and 2015. The case judge at Canterbury Crown Court said that it “had not learnt” from the previous fine and its offending “simply continued.”
Penelope Game, head of practice at Fish Legal said that: “If you think of the savings that Southern Water must have made each year on their treatment costs, you may conclude on a purely financial basis it was still cheaper to pollute the water environment.”
In 2020 Southern Water was responsible for 400 reported incidents.
Surely it cannot get any worse? The answer is quite probably, yes it can. A majority stake in Southern Water has been bought by Australian Investment Bank Macquarie. These new investors have promised to put the utility company “back on a stable footing”.
Unfortunately, Macquarie have an appalling track record from their ownership of Thames Water which they sold for billions in 2017 after a decade in which Macquarie earned billions from the company and paid next to no corporation tax. It also left Thames Water with an extra £2 billion debt.
We recommend interested readers listen to the BBC podcast made in 2017 called: “Macquarie: The Tale of the River Bank”. This describes how the Australian “investment” bank squeezed the maximum profit from the water company whilst deliberately failing to maintain plant at sewage treatment works.
Last year, the new chief executive at Southern Water Ian McAulay awarded himself a £500,000 bonus.
With our antiquated Faversham sewage works operating at or beyond full capacity it is likely that we have a long wait before swimming and raft races are again possible in the Creek. The current utter tragic state of our privatised utilities should surely make any sensible person accept that public ownership is not all bad.
In our next edition we will include a Special Sewage Section with an in-depth look at the state of our Creek.
THE CREEK BRIDGE
Despite having our “can do“ MP Helen Whately at the helm of the Creek Swing Bridge Steering Group which comprises of members of the FTC, KCC, the Faversham Society and the Faversham Creek Trust, very little progress appears to being made towards a resolution with Peel Ports of how or when the replacement bridge will be in place and the sluice gates working in a nicely dredged basin usable basin.
Unfortunately, the group meets in secrecy and produces no minutes, just an occasional press release saying blandly that “progress is being made”. Never any useful detail.
Despite all the disappointments since the heady days of 2015 when the townsfolk raised over £125,000 to help fund the promised new bridge, the Faversham Eye holds onto a small glimmer of hope that our newish Town Council will grasp the nettle and take positive action to resolve matters.
These are the questions we feel need answering:
Exact progress of the feasibility study of options, swing or bascule, and the justification for choice.
What options have been considered for the replacement of the gates, including an improved sluicing mechanism.
Full description of the extent of the whole project; bridge, gates, traffic control system, traffic control system and basin dredging including gutway downstream of the bridge.
Detailed estimated/budget cost of the project and the projected start finish dates.
How will it be funded.
What engagement has there been with Peel Ports, the owner of the Gates and part owner of the bridge.
What consideration has been given to the Statutory Harbour Authority raising a Harbour Closure Order.
What options have been considered as to the daily management of the operation of the Bridge, Gates and sluicing operations.
How much are the temporary bridges costing.
BROWN WATER RAFTING