Water Pollution. Photo: Public Domain
Water Pollution. Photo: Public Domain

Lindsey Morgan, Bristol South Socialist Party

We’ve been up to our necks in crap all summer after water companies were given the go-ahead by the Tories and Labour to pump raw sewage into the waterways. Many beaches have been closed and swimmers have gotten ill from E. coli, some seriously.

The law allows it when it is raining. But now to top it off, water companies have also been ‘dry spilling’, which is discharging sewage on days when it isn’t raining at all, BBC research has found. Without rainwater, sewage is less diluted and causes build-ups of algae and toxins that can kill pets and endanger people.

Thames, Wessex and Southern Water ‘dry spilled’ last year for a total of 3,500 hours. This included the hottest day of the year when many people were trying to cool off in the waterways. Wessex Water covers from the Dorset coast to Bristol and includes some 68 sites where crap, baby wipes, condoms and whatever else has been flushed down the toilet has ended up in the waterways.

Unsurprisingly, the response from our elected politicians has been crap as well. Rishi Sunak has tried to shore up support by promising potentially unlimited fines to the companies that have broken the law. But this is after the Tories slashed the Environment Agency’s budget in half between 2010 and 2020. In many cases the government has had to rely on the ‘honesty’ of water companies to report their own breaches of the law!

Labour has called for “an immediate investigation into both the breach of the licence and the environmental damage caused”. But how does that make profit-laden water companies, which can pay fines with relative ease, stop the practice immediately and ensure it never happens again? It won’t. Profit always takes precedence over safety when it comes to capitalism.

The vast majority of people have had enough and are in favour of renationalisation of the water companies in the UK. More than 70% of the industry was owned by foreign investment firms, private equity, pensions and businesses based in tax havens, the Guardian newspaper recently revealed.

Water needs to be taken back into our hands and any compensation should only go to those with proven need. Nationalisation shouldn’t be the kind of nationalisation we’ve had already where debt is passed to the taxpayer and profit still goes to the shareholders; we need it under democratic workers’ control and management. Water can then be made safe for us to swim in, the workers themselves can decide where money is best spent, and we can finally start rising up above the tide of crap the rich are drenching us in.