Water company bosses ‘should have bonuses targeted’ for river pollution breaches

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Many rivers in England contain a ‘chemical cocktail’ of pollution, a new report says (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Many rivers in England contain a ‘chemical cocktail’ of pollution, a new report says (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Bosses at water companies should have limits placed on bonuses if their firms pollute rivers in breach of permits , MPs have said.

A environmental parliamentary committee made the suggestion in a report on the state of England’s rivers, which concluded these were “in a mess”.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said water companies appeared to be “dumping untreated or partially-treated sewage in rivers on a regular basis”.

This was often in breach of permits, which only allow this in exceptional circumstances, its report said.

The MPs recommended Ofwat, the water services regulator, looked into what powers it had over remuneration in water companies.

This should be done with “a view to limiting the awards of significant annual bonuses to water company senior executives in the event of major or persistent breaches in permit conditions”, they said.

The regulator launched an investigation with the Environment Agency towards the end of the last year, after water companies admitted they could be breaching permits with their sewage discharges into rivers.

It said infringements could result in action such as fines or prosecution.

The EAC report said sewage was part of a “chemical cocktail” of pollution present in many of England’s rivers, along with agricultural waste and single-use plastic.

The MPs said no waterways in the country had received a clean bill of health for chemical contamination and it was important to clean them up for both public health and wildlife.

Experts said the report provided a “scathing snapshot” of the water quality of England’s rivers and the risks were being exacerbated by the climate crisis.

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