Sewage Scrutiny: Mounting Pressure On Utilities Firms After Reports Of Wastewater Across The UK Coast

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Sewage Scrutiny: Mounting Pressure On Utilities Firms After Reports Of Wastewater Across The UK Coast

Water firms across the UK are facing new rounds of backlash from campaigners and politicians who are criticizing the practice of pumping untreated sewage onto beaches. The environmental issue reached a peak after a period of heavy rainfall that led to a series of sewage overflows, resulting in government warnings being issued across 40 coastal locations. The government ministers, alongside the Environmental Agency, are monitoring the situation closely, with a spokesperson saying that ministers expected water companies "to take urgent action on this issue or face fines". The penalties facing water companies are growing at a significant rate, in 2021 Southern Water was fined a record £90 million for ‘deliberately’ pumping billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea.

Water firms in the UK, which became a privatised industry in 1989, now face unprecedented levels of scrutiny, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, accusing the government of not being tough enough on environmental perpetrators. Similarly, data analysed by the Liberal Democrats party members, led to accusations that environmental monitoring devices had either not been installed, or do not work “90% of the time”.  With the risks of mammoth fines ever-growing, this situation is another prime example of mounting ESG and sustainability pressures causing corporate firms to examine and strategize improvements to long-standing, and once accepted operational procedures. Resultingly, it is becoming ever-more important for corporate utility entities to invest in projects to develop more sustainable operations. 

Fortunately for corporate sustainability leaders, there is a plethora of environmentally-focused vendors providing digital services to assist in new ‘green’ endeavours. Global EHS service firms, including the likes of AECOM, Arcadis, ERM, Jacobs and WSP, blend both environmental subject matter expertise and strong engineering and infrastructure experience to drive forward ambitious sustainability projects throughout a firms operations (see Verdantix Smart Innovators). These service firms deploy several technologies within their environmental field services. For example, North American-based Langan leveraged satellite imagery and machine learning-powered visual analytics to evaluate the effect of storm water runoff within the San Francisco region. 

Corporate firms may also turn to commercial software tools to help monitor ESG performance and identify areas to improve environmental metrics. For example, several enterprise EHS software vendors provide robust waste and wastewater compliance management tools, namely Benchmark Cority, Enablon Intelex, Sphera and UL, which all scored highly within the category in the Verdantix Green Quadrant

To understand more about how EHS technology and digital services could improve your firms environmental impact, please visit our website.


Tom Brown

Senior Analyst

Tom is a Senior Analyst in the Verdantix EHS practice. His current research agenda focuses on a range of EHS topics, including high-risk safety controls, contractor management, environmental services and EHS digitization strategy. Prior to joining Verdantix, Tom achieved a Master’s in Chemical Engineering from the University of Nottingham.