Water quality campaigners hope new owners of Southern Water Macquarie will improve pollution toll
Macquarie asset management fund bought a controlling stake in Southern Water for £ 1bn, a month after the utility company was fined a record £ 90m for large-scale pollution .
The new owner said the money will be used to invest significantly in upgrading their network. It will also create 1,000 jobs.
Macquarie bosses also said they would “reinforce a zero tolerance mindset for environmental pollution: a commitment to dramatically improve Southern Water’s environmental track record, which Macquarie Asset Management says is the ‘one of the worst performers in the UK water sector’.
Around £ 2 billion will be invested over the next four years to repair pipelines, pumping stations and sewers which are underperforming and damaging the local environment, the company said.
The shortage of construction workers could lead to a crisis, but means workers’ wages …
The news has been well received by Langstone Harbor users, who say improvements are long overdue.
Mike Owens of Hayling Sewage Watch said, “Yes! Any investment that prevents Southern Water from poisoning humans and our environment is to be seriously welcomed. But … the message from the CEO of Southern Water represents a missed opportunity to remedy the dire situation we find ourselves in after decades of underinvestment.
“Ian McAulay has already identified that it is rainwater filling the sewer system that is the biggest problem Southern Water faces, and he is 100% right, but it remains unanswered!
“This precipitation results in massive and routine discharges of rainwater laden with excreta in our ports and the Solent; such discharges considerably more in volume than any faecal pollution from relatively minor raw sewage spills but nonetheless making headlines which it is committed to fixing.
“With a relatively small investment, Southern Water could immediately stop stormwater spills at our local ports by simply building storm tanks of increased capacity to help protect the environment, it said is a top priority. This approach has been successfully deployed at Fort Cumberland, Eastney; stormwater discharges ceased overnight. Ian McAulay appears to have chosen not to prioritize investments in the area he knows to be his biggest pollution problem, which is very disappointing. ‘
Hugo Wilson, Secretary of the Havant Sea Angling Club, said: “This is absolutely wonderful news, we can’t wait to have clean waters.
“I would be interested to hear how they intend to ensure that we are not going to have similar incidents in the future to what we have had in the past.
“There has been significant underinvestment in water systems over the past few years. What are their investment projects?
“We welcome this promise for the future for Langstone Harbor. We have had too many incidents in the past.
“We are looking forward to cleaner waters, better fishing, I hope, and after the shameful episodes that we have had in the past with Southern Water, we hope that we will no longer have these problems.
“We hope that we can move forward together in the future. “
Macquarie said he was in regular contact with regulator Ofwat about the proposals, outlining his intentions and commitments.
In addition to reducing pollution by more than 50% compared to 2019, the new owner also plans to invest £ 230million to modernize Southern Water’s pipelines, to reduce leaks.
He has also pledged to ensure that water bills do not rise more than inflation and will honor £ 123million owed to customers for historic incidents of leaks and pollution.
Customer services will also be improved to move Southern Water’s position to the second worst performer in the UK water sector.
Leigh Harrison, Head of Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, said: “Southern Water needs significant investments to improve its operational and environmental performance, as well as its financial health.
“Without this, the company will not be able to meet the expectations of the millions of customers who rely on its services every day or reduce its negative impact on the local environment.
“This major £ 1bn investment by one of our long-term infrastructure funds will help put Southern Water back on a stable footing and enable an ambitious multi-year transformation plan to deliver essential water and water services. sanitation in the south-east of England more sustainable. and resilient. ‘
Southern Water Managing Director Ian McAulay said: “This is good news for our customers, the local environment and the regional economy.
“It strengthens our ability to meet the long-term challenges posed by climate change and population growth, while being responsible stewards of the rivers and seas of southern England.
“It is important to note that this new investment will help Southern Water create approximately 1,000 new jobs and expand our apprenticeship program, thereby contributing to the economic recovery of our region as we fight the global Covid-19 pandemic. . “
The deal comes a month after Southern Water was fined £ 90million when bosses admitted to dumping sewage illegally thousands of times over a five-year period.
The company pleaded guilty to 6,971 unauthorized sewage discharges – the equivalent of one continuous pipe leak for seven years.
Tons of sewage polluted the rivers and coastal waters of Kent, Hampshire and Sussex between 2010 and 2015, a court has heard.
Judge Johnson, at Canterbury Crown Court, said of the 51 official guilty pleas that the company’s behavior had been “shocking”.
The bosses have also been accused of deliberately presenting a misleading image of compliance to the Environment Agency, which has launched criminal charges.
The case followed a fine of £ 126million imposed on Southern Water in 2019 over the company’s regulatory breaches during the same period.
Macquarie manages £ 310 billion in assets, investing the savings of retirees, including £ 50 billion in infrastructure projects since 2005.