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Data & Facts - Gaps: Corporate Scum

Corporate Scum

  • Water companies currently have too much power, and are unwilling to act responsibly. One example of this is selective water testing by water companies, local and national authorities, which means water samples are only taken from mid-depth of rivers, excluding silt deposits, where most toxic industrial legacy cocktails lie.

  • Water companies can selectively dispense with water testing results, which can suit their purposes. In sewage overflow incidents, they may fail to provide representative data to regulators on licence breaches. More recently, most water companies now have monitoring devices at combined sewage overflow outlets, but the efficacy of the technology and the interpretation of the data flowing from these needs scrutiny.

  • Water companies can also stop sewage outflow at treatment plants to avoid Environment Agency monitoring effectively during site checks. Having advance notice of checks, rather than spot checks allows this. You may want to ask your water company if this is a practice they use.

  • Water company improvement plans may be completely unfit for purpose and lack public input. Inviting water companies to a Water Assembly, a water-manaement themed community assembly to increase accountability and transparency can be a useful way for your local community to ensure they stay on track.

    • A recent community assembly in Wrexham was hailed by local rebels as really useful and the beginning of good connections made with the local water company and the regulatory body. Keep an eye on this section of Community Assemblies case studies for examples of local groups addressing water issues!

  • Sewage overflow incident data from water companies may not be real-time. For instance, water companies share information with the Rivers Trust, who produce a sewage map of overflow event numbers and volume. Valuable as that resource is, it isn't yet ideal until real-time monitoring data is available there.

  • One option is writing a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to water companies to get exact data. Wording needs to be well-crafted, to prevent your responder from side-stepping a question. See the Lighthouse (what can we actually do?) section of this page for FoI letter template help,

  • Let's just be clear, though, it isn't just sewage we need to be mindful of, there is also licensed industrial effluent. For local information on incidents in England, email . This automated reporting inventory (pollution inventory electronic data capture / PIEDC) "provides information about releases and transfers of substances from regulated industrial activities."

    • For Scotland, Ireland and Wales, you will need to check with your regulatory authority. (More info coming.)

  • The questions your community or local group might want to ask include:

    • What are the thresholds that trigger reporting and for which chemicals?
    • How do those thresholds compare with permitted levels in other parts of the world?
    • Are the licensing laws adequate, or do they need updating?
    • Are safety assessments purely about human health, for which an adult male is the standard and which downplays impacts on children, pregnant women and unborn foetuses?
    • What are the ecological implications of licensing where you are?
    • Are water extraction licenses adequate to reflect changing weather and ecology patterns?
    • Can we trust profiteers or the Environment Agency and other authorities to tell the whole truth, or is it another case of lies, damn lies and statistics?