Government will hold companies ‘feet to the fire’ over water quality, says Defra secretary

The Environment Secretary told MPs that her Suffolk Coastal constituency meant that she was well aware of the issue.

Dominic McGrath
Tuesday 06 December 2022 16:43 GMT
Therese Coffey took questions from MPs about water companies (Toby Williams/PA)
Therese Coffey took questions from MPs about water companies (Toby Williams/PA)

The Government will hold water companies’ “feet to the fire” over sewage treatment and pollution, the Environment Secretary has promised.

Therese Coffey, appearing in front of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, promised to hold water companies’ “feet to the fire” amid public anger over sewage treatment and spills.

The Environment Secretary, who told MPs that her Suffolk Coastal constituency meant that she was well aware of the issue, faced questions from Labour MP Rosie Duffield about Government efforts to hold water companies accountable.

Ms Coffey said that water companies “know they need to sort this out” as she spoke of Government efforts to ensure water quality is improved.

But she also told MPs: “I am very disappointed in several of the water companies. There were more powers that we created in the Environment Act last year, which we will be deploying to significantly increase transparency.

That included, she said, getting more data and monitoring water quality.

She added: “We are going to hold their feet to the fire, candidly.”

Ms Coffey said that water companies would be coming to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on Monday “because of issues that we have been alerted to and that we want to fix”.

There has been growing public outrage in recent months at the volume of raw or partially treated sewage pumped into the UK’s rivers and coastal waters.

Water firms are being criticised for not investing money back into the UK’s outdated water infrastructure, with mounting pressure on the Government to intervene.

Last month the Government confirmed that money from fines handed to water companies – for polluting rivers and seas – would be used to to improve the natural environment.

Under Government proposals, funds will be ringfenced to invest back into water quality improvement initiatives, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

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