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This is fascinating

That’s why, for the first time in English law, I have begun legal action with the support of Leigh Day against six of the largest water companies, on behalf of more than 20 million householders. If we win, the compensation could be more than £800m, which would result in about £40 or £50 being paid back per household. Our case is this: we hope to prove that the water companies have been underreporting the number of pollution incidents and overcharging customers as a result.

OK, that’s what her case is. She might win, she might not.

But we know that both Wales and Scotland are worse on this metric. So why aren’t they being sued?

And wouldn’t it be fascinating if they were sued on the same grounds?

34 thoughts on “This is fascinating”

  1. So this £800m will just magically appear from the unicorn farm will it?

    No. It will be paid by householders, through their bills. Plus all the leagl costs.

    Though I suppose she may force them into administration, so the bill will be picked up by the taxpayer.

  2. So she and Leigh Day are suing Thames Water “on my behalf” without asking me?
    Can Isue her for misrepresentation?

  3. I saw a piece on TV the other day where protesters said they weren’t going to pay their bills till the water companies stopped discharging untreated waste when it rains heavy enough to max out the storage. My immediate thought was that to retaliate against non payment the water company should seal the sewer pipe leaving their property, thus making the system backing up their urgent problem.

  4. “Windrush Against Sewage Pollution.”

    I know it’s a river but if there’s compo on the table don’t be surprised to see a BLM Clean Water Group and a Stephen Lawrence Action Committee Against Dredging.

  5. Martin Near The M25

    This underlines the pointlessness of most regulations. It’s an incredibly tough regime:

    Regulator: Have you been naughty?
    Water Companies: No!
    Regulator: Right, carry on!

  6. But we know that both Wales and Scotland are worse on this metric.

    But if the claim is that English water companies are under-reporting their discharges, do we actually know that? Is this based on company / agency reports, or on third-party observation of actual performance on both cases?

  7. So I get one month’s water refund. What then happens next month? And the month after? And the month after? And after and after and after?

  8. And why are the levels of sewage discharge so high? Could it be that the “official” census population is understated by anywhere between 10-20 million and that the governments own figures are also a load of shit. The major supermarkets, allegedly, have their own back if the envelope figures based on sales/consumption which suggest a similar level of under-reported population.

  9. The English companies have been installing independently monitored measurers all over the place. ‘Fousands of ’em. Actually tens of thousands. Scotland have like three. Among experts it is generally agreed that the Scottish problem is worse and concealed only by a near total lack of measurement.

  10. Thank you Tim. This does confirm my experience as a bureaucrat that one should always avoid enquiring into something. You might find out the answer!!

  11. The problem isn’t that the water companies can’t treat the water that they originally supplied being returned contaminated with shit, piss, menstrual blah blah blah, it’s that the selfsame people bleating about it are adding not only their personal (un) hygienic stuff, but also, when it rains, loads of extra water which overwhelms sewage treatment plants.

    No matter what the short term posturing you do, in the end, to do anything the shitters will have to pay.

  12. Rational Anarchist

    I’m actually working on a project related to this right now. The water companies can self report but there’s a lot of sampling that takes place downstream – if there were excessive extra spills, surely it would be reflected in the data (and I’m not saying that it isn’t – I’ve not looked…)

    Anyone who wants to can check for themselves at

  13. PJF – and the Coprophile Information Exchange squaring up aginst the Trans Tampon Liberationists. Fun for the hole family.

  14. “No matter what the short term posturing you do, in the end, to do anything the shitters will have to pay.”

    Which is what I’ve been saying for ages. Everybody pulls the chain, so ultimately whatever happens to our sh*t once it leaves our properties is going to have to be paid for by us, the chain pullers. Who else is going to pay? People in other countries? Aliens?

  15. The thought occurs – those nerks wot pulled down a few statues, would it be possible to initiate a lawsuit on the grounds that the statues were in public spaces, and their removal means we incur a loss of, er, quiet enjoyment?

    To be settled in cash, preferably.

  16. And what’s the cut the lawyers are taking for this case, class action type suits where the legal firm gets a % of the payout for the case administering the payout are very profitable

  17. The English companies have been installing independently monitored measurers all over the place…

    Thanks Tim – I suspected as much, but wasn’t sure

  18. Sanitation is something that we in the modern world take totally for granted. I realised this while attending a 24 hour running event at Bramham Park near Leeds. Several thousand runners, along with their support crews set up a large campsite and then see who can run the greatest distance in 24 hours. The campsite had something like 50 portaloos which were attended by a tanker which emptied them several times a day. The things were frequently filled to overflowing. It really made me realise just how much shit a moderately large gathering of people produce.

    Incidentally, the world record for 24 hour running is 172 miles. That is 3hr marathon pace, for 24 hours.

  19. Rational Anarchist – thanks for the link, looks interesting. Now I’ll have to find out what the numbers mean.

  20. “…Scotland have like three…”

    You would probably be surprised – I was – to discover how many coastal properties in Scotland get round this problem by simply discharging their sewage straight into the sea.

  21. I saw a programme on the box last week – The Frogs have spent a billion+ Euro’s trying to clean up the River Seine in time for the Olympics (note: so not for the benefit of Parisians, but to make Micron look good on the world stage…..):

    Favourite line: “It means, thankfully, there is less faecal (poo) bacteria floating in the river now”.

    If only we had had socialist governments over the last 25+ years (that particular discussion is not for this post. Possibly….) our rivers would all be nice and clean….. .

  22. Stonyground: I’m boggled, but thinking about it, our distant ancestors were probably doing that hunting down antelopes on the Serengeti. On a regular basis too.

  23. Paved front car parking areas without soak-away drainage mean rain goes into the street drains. So it’s not entirely the water companies’ fault – local councils should insist on properly drained hard standings. In my road at least ten properties have paved their front gardens in the last five years, none of them have soak-away drainage (which does not cost much), but they all have paid for dropped kerbs

  24. I’m on a course at the moment and one of the other “delegates” is a woman from a water company.

    She says they have two regulators – Ofwat and the Environment Agency.

    The EA want to see continuous improvement of performance but Ofwat fix budgets for 5 years which restricts what the water companies can do.

    Quite why there are two QUANGOs where the left hand clearly doesn’t know what the right hand is doing instead of them both being absorbed into the Department of the Environment isn’t clear.

  25. @Ed P
    Doesn’t do their houses much good either. Depending on the substrate, the ground underneath the driveway can dry out, shrink & then they get subsidence under the front of the building. Particularly when there’s clay in the ground.

  26. When we stopped (a bit) just shoving sewage into the sea, the fish started complaining that they were being starved …. they have a point. After all, politicians and the media shove crap down the throats of the Plebs, and they lap it up.

  27. @ Charles
    Our rivers are cleaner than they were fifty years ago. Salmon have returned to the Thames and the Tees, which were (probably) the most polluted major rivers in England before water privatisation. Anecdata alert: I was born, and mostly grew up, on Tees-side but the first salmon I saw was in Lochaber.
    It is possible to reduce pollution but just who is willing to pay, out of their own pockets, for the £billions which it would cost to create a separate drainage system for rainwater so that the current sewage system will never overflow?

  28. @john77 – “just who is willing to pay, out of their own pockets”

    Nobody. Even paying for necessary upgrades to the existing combined sewer system is only possible through trickery. The problem is that this kind of project takes so long that it sees multiple governments come and go before completion. For example, the Thames Tideway scheme can be traced back to planning started in 2001, Actual work only started in 2016 and it won’t be completed until 2025. Those paying are the customers of Thames Water because this kind of thing is very hard to finance through public schemes, which are subject to the whims of changing governments. And, of course, there are very many people who seem to think that public finance for project is some sort of magic money that appears out of nowhere, so don’t want any provision to actually raise the money.

  29. Surreptitious Evil

    You would probably be surprised – I was – to discover how many coastal properties in Scotland get round this problem by simply discharging their sewage straight into the sea.

    Back when I was one of them, dinghy sailors in the River Tay were always surprised by people collecting mussels off Dundee’s Stoney Beach. Which is just downstream of an obvious, except at higher tide states, sewage outflow. Mussels love sewage. People who eat mussels which have loved sewage usually have problems.

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