Letter: Costs of cleaning up pollution

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The Independent Online
Sir: Chris Smith, the Labour spokesman on environmental protection, writes (Letters, 16 July) that where pollution cannot be prevented, the polluter and not the consumer should pay to remove it from water. He conveniently overlooks the fact that often when it comes to dirty water - where the big pressures pushing up bills are to be found - the polluter is, in fact, the consumer.

Industry already pays trade effluent charges. These should reflect the full cost of treating the effluent. Like Mr Smith I would like to see the polluter-pays principle extended - the motorist paying additional tax to deal with the pollution that runs off our roads, for example. Future taxes on agricultural chemicals are not going to solve the problems that require a clean up now.

When calculating the increase in bills arising from obligations imposed since 1989, I assumed that investment would be paid for over the lives of the new assets and that the companies would need to borrow to finance these new capital works. The bigger the investment programme, however, the more bills may have to rise to maintain the financial ratios which are a precondition of borrowing.

This is one of the reasons why I advocate implementing obligations at a steady rate to avoid driving up financing (and other) costs by trying to do too much too fast.

Yours faithfully,

I. C. R. BYATT

Director General, Ofwat

Birmingham

16 July

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