Sadly Southern Water is renowned as a serial polluter. Figures produced by the Environment Agency show that the company has one of the worst pollution records in the entire privatised water industry, prompting a High Court Judge to describe the company, in 2014, as having a “persistent record of criminality and offending”. Water industry regulator OFWAT have also identified Southern Water has having the highest rate of customer complaints for each of the past four years.
I’d like to believe that a £2million fine would be a wakeup call to Southern Water to take greater care of our environment and provide improved customer services. But sadly I doubt it. According to its accounts for 2015-16 Southern Water made pre-tax profits of £119million which works out to be a wealth generation rate of £329,000 per day! A fine of £2million pales into insignificance when compared against these astronomic earnings figures and in all probability treated by Southern Water as a minor business overhead of little consequence.
If privatised water companies are to be genuinely held to account for polluting our environment then fines should much larger than the £2million record fine handed down at Maidstone on 19 December. I would suggest that somewhere in the region of £10 to £15 million would be much more appropriate and if the problems persist then the company concerned should be taken into public ownership and run by the state just like the water industry in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.