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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee call in water companies over recent pollution incidents

22 May 2024

The Chair of the EFRA Committee has written to the CEOs of United Utilities and South West Water (SWW) to raise the Committee’s serious concerns over the recent incidents involving sewage being illegally pumped into Lake Windermere, and the parasite outbreak in the water network in Devon.

The Committee intends to question the two companies’ CEOs in an evidence session on 5 June, ahead of Ofwat delivering its verdict on water companies’ spending plans and proposed price rises, on 12 June.

The letter to South West Water sees Sir Robert Goodwill state that the Committee is ‘deeply troubled’ by the recent outbreak of cryptosporidium in and around Brixham, Devon.

After 17,000 households were last week told to boil their drinking water, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) yesterday said that there had been 57 confirmed cases of cryptosporidiosis and that more cases are expected to be confirmed this week.

Sir Robert’s letter to the CEO of SWW Susan Davy says that ‘in failing to supply safe water and in responding slowly and ineffectively to the outbreak, South West Water has fallen far short of its responsibilities to its customers’.

Ahead of the hearing on 5 June, the Committee requests for the SWW CEO’s written account of the events of the last week by 31 May.

The Committee Chair has separately written to Louise Beardmore, CEO of United Utilities. It was last month reported that United Utilities had released more than 10 million litres of untreated sewage into Lake Windermere over a period of 10 hours in February.

The Committee’s letter notes that it was a telecommunications fault which initially triggered the incident, but states that the Committee is ‘keen to investigate whether swift and appropriate action was taken by United Utilities to end the discharge and to inform the Environment Agency.

Sir Robert’s letter to the CEO of United Utilities says the Committee ‘wish to discuss the steps taken by your company to ensure a similar incident does not happen again.’

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