A dirty water fraud

This is another post exposing pollution in our area caused by the water industry and by the failure of The Environment Agency to keep them in check through inadequate regulation.

Previously, I reported on how The Rivers Trust had exposed this abysmal polluting industry and how raw sewage was entering water courses through combined sewers and through a process known as “event duration monitors”. These “monitors” were set up to monitor release of sewage during heavy rainfall, but not to stop the pollution from entering the system to start with.

The RT report, as revealed in an ITN news story highlighted that

“64 years worth of raw sewage dumped into rivers and streams by Severn Trent”



The Rivers Trust published a report and an interactive map to track such events.



Two events stuck out concerning issues that we have had with ill birds at Victoria park Smethwick- fed by the Thimblemill Brook via Norman Road, and of course Smethwick Hall park, where STW incompetence of asset management led to a horrific spill of raw sewage in 2019, which they failed to rectify out of their own pocket.

These were the key points in the RT report about these sites, and it also revealed the permits used to justify this.





On this matter , I submitted an EIR request to STW. previously they have attempted to dodge answering some FOI’s and had to be reminded that they are still liable for answering matters relating to environmental issues. 

With respect to the two Smethwick permits I asked the following via as always, the brilliant whatdotheyknow.com.

“Please provide by electronic means data you hold in respect of your permits
T/09/30212/O Smethwick Londonderry Lane (Cso)
T/08/35707/O Stanhope Road/Davison Road Junction (Cso).

For each please specify if you have installed event duration monitors and when these were installed. Please give information for all years for each permit for
(1)Total Duration (hours) of all spills prior to processing through 12-24 hour counting method
(2) Counted spills using 12- 24hr counting method
(3) % of reporting period EDM operational
(4)First Reporting Year

Please confirm if the information is by calendar year or financial year.”

After sending me some incomprehensible gibberish, STW did provide this answer in excel form. 




One can see from this that the situation at Stony Lane has got worse over the last three years between 2018-2020. Data from the other site only started in 2019.

One of my main concerns about pollution issues is the self monitoring issue of this company, who lied about one such event at a nature reserve. This also stems from the fact that the EA send out this company when there is a suspected pollution arising from their network, and also the fact that the common incident classification system is not fit for purpose when it comes to evaluating environmental damage to wildfowl, rather than fish.  The EA told me that they do not attend category 3 incidents, and it is apparent that most are given this number, which does not adequately summarise the amount of damage caused by the incident- particularly when wildfowl become ill or affected.


The way in which the EA classify these incidents is the problem.

The second FOI I asked about water was to the EA, and how many of the reported incidents of pollution to and and water in their Midlands area had been identified caused by Severn Trent. This would give a good indicator of how many incidents this one company had caused, and also whether they are a fit for purpose entity for tracing and preventing water pollution from occurring.

I asked

“Please provide by electronic means in excel spreadsheet form the number of category 1, 2 and 3 incidents to both land and water for calendar years 2013-2020 in the Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and West midlands area.
Please also disclose for each year, how many of these incidents were causally linked to Severn Trent Water, a third party whom you often call to attend incidents which may involve their own illegal discharges.”

The EA significantly delayed answering this request and I had to chase it, but finally came up with an excel form to show the parameters asked for.


The figures below are quite striking, and the response from the agency in different formats shows why their own classification system is a fraud and also how the water industry is hiding behind HOW the incidents are classified. NB THESE ARE REPORTED INCIDENTS ONLY, AND ONE CAN GUESS THAT MANY MORE WERE NOT SEEN OR EVALUATED IF THEY WERE NOT REPORTED. 


Source- Environment Agency

Taken as all incidents of pollution, categories 1-3, Severn Trent are revealed here as a major water polluter, if not the greatest single water polluter in the region.

Between the years 2013-2020, they were responsible for

2013 29%,

2014 23%,

2015  20.7%,

2016 27.7%,

2017  27.9%,

2018   26.8%,

2019     28%,

2020 20.4%.

This reveals an average of  25.8% ,  over the 8 year period meaning that this water company, who claim to be promoting environmental efficacy for a clean water environment, are causing over a quarter of the pollution in our area! THIS IS A DISGRACE! 

Further breakdowns however show how this can be hid by the classification system when it comes to land and water to make it appear like less damage is being done.


Source- Environment Agency

By far the majority of Severn Trent’s pollution assaults on the environment are being tagged as category 3, meaning that they are down marking their own work to provide this fraud when the EA call them out to reports from members of the public. The EA cannot know the real picture from a phone call from a report from a member of the public, and the fact that their staff do not attend incidents which the form filling exercise tells them isn’t having a detrimental impact due to the shite classification system means that Severn Trent will simply correlate that downgrading to avoid being fined.

By far the most telling statistic from these figures are the number of incidents to water at category 3 for which in some years equate to 50% of statistics for this category- see 2013 when 502 out of 1004 incidents were being classified as such, with “no impact to land”.


Source- Environment Agency

As part of my disgust at the state of play regards this situation, I wrote to my MP Nicola Richards , who wrote to the EA receiving this response from Suzanne Ward, Area environment manager for the area.

The following points were made

  • The EA brought 48 prosecutions against water companies over the last six years- but I am not sure if she refers to those in our region, (and note the figures the EA have supplied above to show how many pollution incidents there have been and those attributable to Severn Trent), or nationally. If this is nationally, then the figure is absolutely pathetic.
  • The storm overflows taskforce sounds like another “multi- agency” back patting exercise. Only one body is needed here, and that should be the EA themselves.
  • She mentions the EDM monitors and how the number has increased, though I would repeat the fact that the water companies are responsible for monitoring these themselves, and have already been caught out telling porkies.
  • “Robust action” is not being taken against water companies, as the EA figures show, basically because their classification system is letting them off the hook. It is a subjective exercise and not an objective one.

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It is incredible at this time that Severn Trent are spouting off about planting trees as some form of “legacy” for a minor sporting event that will take place in the region for 14 days next year. Their record over the last 8 years, as seen from the figures where they are causing a quarter of reported pollution incidents in our region to water. THAT IS THE REAL LEGACY OF SEVERN TRENT WATER PLC, FROM A PARK JUST DOWN THE ROAD FROM THE NEW AQUATICS CENTRE, WHICH THEY FAILED TO EVEN CONTRIBUTE A PENNY TOWARDS RECTIFYING. 


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