All storm overflows in England now fitted with electronic monitoring equipment

All storm overflows in England are now being electronically monitored

Every storm overflow across the water network in England has now been fitted with Event Duration Monitors (EDMs), the government has announced.

Event Duration Monitors measure how, when and for how long a storm overflow is in operation. This shows the public when discharges are happening and helps the government and regulators to better hold water companies to account for illegal sewage spills and improve knowledge of overflow operation to identify where improvements can be made.

In 2010, just 7% of storm overflows had monitors fitted. Now 100% of the near 15,000 overflows are fitted.

Storm overflows are an automatic safety valve that release excess pressure on the network from flooding and heavy rain – preventing sewage backing up into properties and stopping widespread mains pipe bursts across the country.

They should, however, only be used under strict permit conditions. Increased monitoring will give government and regulators the information they need to take action when permits are breached.

Environment Agency Executive Director John Leyland said: “After eight years of work, every storm overflow is now monitored, giving us much more information about where and when storm overflow discharges are happening.

“This increased transparency will allow the Environment Agency to better tackle illegal discharges from storm overflows. We are dedicated to investigating those that breach their strict permitting conditions.

“We take our responsibility to protect the environment very seriously. We are also strengthening our regulation by expanding our specialised workforce, increasing compliance checks, and using new data and intelligence tools to inform our work.”

Polluters face unlimited financial penalties for breaching permits and polluting the environment thanks to changes to Variable Monetary Penalties (VMPs), which are civil sanctions issued by the Environment Agency. The move is designed to offer a more rapid form of punishment compared to criminal prosecution.

The government says it has also given regulator Ofwat increased powers to ensure water company dividends are linked to environmental performance and there are tightened rules on bonus payments.

Margate pumping station Photo Southern Water

For customers of Southern Water, which covers Thanet, there will be a bill increase of £230 per year (44%) from 2025 until 2030 to help cover the cost of a £7.8billion investment in the service.

Wastewater only customers will see average bills increase by £85 per year (27%) between 2025 to 2030. Water only customers will see average bills increase by £145 per year (69%) between 2025 to 2030.

Southern Water says there has been significant new investment from shareholders of £1.6 billion since 2021 and says no dividends have been paid out since 2017.

In July Southern Water’s Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) rating showed some improvement, but the company still needs to improve, according to the annual report released by the Environment Agency.

Specifically regarding Southern Water’s performance in 2022, the report highlighted serious pollution incidents decreased from 12 in 2021 to five in 2022. There was a slight improvement in the total number of pollution incidents, with 358 incidents in 2022 compared to 372 in 2021, but the figures remained high. The company continued its practice of self-reporting incidents, with 90% of all pollution incidents being reported internally.

Southern Water received a two-star rating, indicating an improvement from its previous one-star rating.

Labour’s candidate to be the MP for the new constituency of East Thanet, Polly Billington, said: “Thanet residents love the sea – it’s one of our greatest assets – but water industry bosses can still rake in their bonuses and allow raw sewage to be dumped in our seas.

“The Tories have refused to clean up the water industry and residents and swimmers here in Thanet are paying the price.

“With Labour, the polluter – not the public – will pay. Water companies must immediately be placed under special measures.

“Labour will strengthen regulation to make sure every single water outlet is monitored so we know the true extent of this sewage crisis. Water bosses who continue to oversee law-breaking on the scale now becoming apparent will face criminal charges, and we will give the water regulator powers to block payment of any bonuses until water bosses have cleaned up their filth.”

The parliamentary candidate says Labour’s  wider plan to put the water industry under “special measures” would include:

  • End self-monitoring and force all companies to monitor every single water outlet.
  • Ensuring that water bosses will face personal criminal liability for extreme and persistent lawbreaking.
  • Introducing severe, automatic fines for illegal discharges.

Southern Water work to cut ‘storm’ releases into Thanet’s coastline – but campaigners say more action is needed

16 Comments

  1. Yes, but are the storm monitors wired to reduce the bank balances of the Southern water CEO and those of the shareholders?
    I suspect that some here will want the storm monitors wired in a way that will be more physically painful for the aforementioned persons

    • None of this goes anywhere near solving the fundamental issue that we continue to concrete and tarmac over hundreds of acres of land every year. The run-off of surface water every time it rains goes into drains that were mostly laid by the Victorians – at a time when most of the rain was absorbed by what was then a green and pleasant land.

      • Exactly, John. If anyone wants to help, then I suggest they park their cars in roads (or get smaller ones, so they fit into garage) – and then return the front of their houses into gardens.

        • Cars are around 20% larger than they were 50 years ago and they were substantially larger than those built in the interwar years, yet Modern houses still have garages that can only comfortably park an Austin 7.
          The municipal car park look for the front garden is not great, but done well with permeable surfaces it will not make matters worse.
          Probably the best solution will be car clubs where individuals join up and jointly own a fleet cars but do not to have one round the house at all times.That and a much better public transport network.

  2. They are not telling us something we don’t already know we all know when our waters look a brown colour we can guess why.
    The shareholders still walk away laughing while our waters stay polluted. It’s beyond belief that with all the bad things the Conservatives have done selling off the utilities to private companies has to be one of the worst especially that they poison our seas and rivers and get away with it. Ffs

    • Bill By the way go back to your posting on the resignation of the EKHUT Chairman. See my reply. Looking forward to your response!

      • Give it a rest Laurence.You comb the jobs adverts looking for absurd job titles, find one and claim the NHS is fully funded,well it isn’t,and only NHS denier, would hold that it was.
        Sure they can do better, much better, but it is not enough.
        I have no idea what the job title involves and neither do you,but it appears pointless,and I agree they should prioritise on having better labour relations and achieving best practice, while shifting the oldies out of hospital where they get sick,not better.

        • Thank you for your considered opinion not! Having seen the empire building from within the NHS at first hand I will comment when I want to. As far as funding however much money you pump into the NHS will never be enough for some people including you. Any way happy new year and good luck to you on the Isle of Thanet you will need it!

  3. Perhaps the members of the board should be forced to have there heads held under them in a release, think that way it would all stop rather quickly.

    As for making the public pay again for something they already paid for when privatised, it is a disgrace. Then take into account the debt took on to pay boards dividends and salaries and you have a typical Tory scum party, the sewage isn’t the only thing that stinks!

  4. Similar to a domestic Smart Meter fitted by energy companies in our homes if like mine a dumb meter as it does not work.

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