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How much you’re paying for the most polluting water company

United Utilities is once again in the spotlight after being found to have illegally pumped sewage into Lake Windermere following a fault.

The company was revealed in Government statistics earlier this year to have polluted more than any other water firm in 2023, yet continues to give executives bonuses, raise bills and pay out dividends to shareholders.

According to a BBC investigation, United Utilities failed to stop the illegal pollution of Windermere for 10 hours in February this year and did not report the leak until 13 hours later.

Sources at the company said 10 million litres of sewage was dumped over the period, but a company spokesperson told i that the dumping was due to an unexpected fault by a third party.

United Utilities has become a target for clean river campaigners due to consistently high levels of pollution reported by the company.

Environment Agency statistics published in March revealed United Utilities dumped the highest number of sewage spills per “storm overflow”, with 45.4, releasing waste for more than 650,000 hours in 2023.

Despite this, then-chief executive Steve Mogford, who has since retired, received a £426,000 bonus as part of a £2.2m pay packet, according to United Utilities’ annual report for the year ending 31 March, 2023. The bonus was down from £727,000 the previous year.

Meanwhile, United Utilities’ consumers’ bills are set to increase by 7.8 per cent between 2023-24 and 2024-25, from £446 to £481 a year.

In recent years, the company has consistently paid out dividends to shareholders, despite concerns over the amount of sewage being released by the company.

In its most recent results, United Utilities announced profits of £90m, while committing to give shareholders a dividend worth £113m in total, The Times reported.

The company has faced criticism from celebrities including Steve Coogan, Paul Whitehouse and Lee Mack, over sewage pollution at Lake Windermere and across the North West more generally.

Comedian Paul Whitehouse, who hosts Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing said in 2023 that people were “rightly appalled” of how the company had treated Lake Windermere.

Responding to the Lake Windermere incident in February, a United Utilities spokesperson said: “This incident was caused by an unexpected fault on the third party telecoms cable network in the area, which United Utilities was not notified about and which affected both the primary system and United Utilities’ backup.

“As soon as we discovered this fault was affecting the Glebe Road pumping station, our engineers took urgent steps to resolve the situation and we informed the Environment Agency within an hour of the pollution being confirmed.”

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