United Utilities is among several water firms said to be facing legal action over claims it “underreported” incidents of sewage pollution.
The firm – which provides water and wastewater services right across the North West of England – joins five other water companies, Severn Trent Water, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Yorkshire Water, and Northumbrian Water, in potentially being taken to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
As well as the claims of “underreporting” of sewage pollution incidents, the six water firms have also been accused of overcharging customers.
The water companies – which are the six biggest in England – could end up paying over £800 million in compensation to more than 20 million customers nationwide, if the cases are successful.
The claims are being brought by Professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant represented by Leigh Day Solicitors, who is alleging that water companies have broken competition laws by misleading both the Environment Agency, and the regulator Ofwat – adding that the “underreporting” of the number of sewage discharges has resulting in customers being “unfairly overcharged” for wastewater services.
Professor Roberts is also claiming that, had sewage discharge reporting been “accurate”, it would have lowered customers’ bills.
Today’s claims against United Utilities and the five other major water companies follows claims from campaigners that the River Severn is the most polluted in the UK, who also estimated that waste was pumped into the waterway on 2,600 separate occasions in 2021, Sky News reports.
The claims also follow growing public anger over sewage being pumped into Britain’s rivers and seas.
The public’s backlash to this is what prompted industry body, Water UK, to issue an unprecedented public apology earlier this year for not acting quickly enough on spills, and also lead the organisation’s chair Ruth Kelly to admitting that campaigners were “right to be upset” about the current quality of rivers and beaches.
This time around though, however, Water UK has described Professor Roberts’s legal action as “highly speculative” and “entirely without merit”.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “This highly speculative claim is entirely without merit. The regulator has confirmed that over 99% of sewage works comply with their legal requirements [and] if companies fail to deliver on their commitments, then customer bills are already adjusted accordingly.”
Zoe Mernick-Levene, who is a partner at Leigh Day Solicitors, argued on the contrary that these claims are “hugely significant”.
She continued: ‘Not only is compensation being sought for millions of customers who have and continue to pay higher water bills, but we hope that it will also send a message to water companies that they cannot unlawfully pollute waterways and mislead their regulators without consequence.
“Customers put their trust in water companies, believing that they are correctly reporting these spillages and appropriately treating the sewage so it can safely be returned to the environment.
“Instead, our client believes they are misleading their regulators and customers are overpaying while England’s waterways are suffering as a result.”
The claims are being brought on an opt-out basis, meaning all water bill payers are automatically a part of the case unless they actively choose not to be – but first, the Competition Appeal Tribunal will need to decide whether the claims can go ahead.
Manchester United issue response after banning Manchester Evening News and select journalists from press conference
The Manchester Evening News (MEN) along with a number of sports journalists have reportedly been banned from attending a Manchester United press conference after publishing a story on an apparent rift at the club, claiming that manager Erik ten Hag has ‘lost the dressing room’.
Citing the reason behind the ban as being due to Chief Man United Writer and well-known sports reporter, Samuel Luckhurst’s recent story, which claimed that ten Hag is “losing the confidence” of his players, he and at least three other journalists won’t be in attendance after Sky Sports went so far as to suggest as much as “50%” of the dressing room.
It is thought that Sky‘s chief reporter Kaveh Solekhol, David McDonnell of The Mirror and ESPN‘s Rob Dawson are among the other individuals to have been barred from joining this afternoon’s presser as per instruction from United‘s Director of Media Relations and Public Affairs, Andrew Ward.
Issuing a statement to The Manc and journalists across the country, the club said: “We’re taking action against a number of news organisations today, not for publishing stories we don’t like, but for doing so without contacting us first to give us the opportunity to comment, challenge or contextualise.
“We believe this is an important principle to defend and we hope it can lead to a re-set in the way we work together.” It is unclear how long the suspension is set to be upheld but it is likely they will only serve a one-match ban — pardon the pun.
The MEN reiterated that the initial story was “multiply-sourced”, adding that they had not been banned as a result of previous stories that were largely seen as critical of the Man United head coach and/or his squad, including prior claims players were starting to “doubt” his tactics and managerial style.
Furthermore, the outlet goes on to state that several other journalists have claimed they were prevented from asking questions in press conferences by Ward in the past “over perceived negative coverage”, adding that the club have expressed their “regret” over having to issue the ban. The move has been welcomed by many fans, with several saying it is reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s hardline approach to the media.
Man United have made one of their worst starts to a campaign in decades and, despite winning their first trophy in six years under the Dutchman with an EFL Cup win last season, have unfortunately been breaking all manner of unwanted records of late.
ten Hag’s team suffered another disappointing loss against Newcastle at the end of November and now face another tricky task as they prepare to face a Chelsea side who are starting to gather some semblance of form.
Countless Reds and neutrals alike will no doubt now be tuning in for his pre-match press conference at 1:30pm ahead of the mid-week Premier League fixture against the West Londoners on Wednesday night (8:15pm kick-off).
The former Ajax manager has made no secret of the troubles he faced when he first arrived at Old Trafford but is clearly keen to avoid others from airing any of their rumoured dirty laundry.
Featured Images — The Manc Group/Manchester United
Adult film star and LGBTQ+ icon Sophie Anderson dies aged 36
Adult film star and much-loved LGBTQ+ icon Sophie Anderson has sadly died aged just 36, as confirmed by colleague, influencer and friend Rebecca More.
The recognisable UK porn star and internet personality, best known for being one-half of the viral online duo ‘C*ck Destroyers’ alongside More, was announced dead on Tuesday, 5 December following reports from numerous media outlets before being confirmed by her former co-star.
Sharing the news on social media, Rebecca wrote: “I’m devastated hearing the awful news of Sophie’s passing. We shared some amazing times together and that’s how I’m going to remember her.
She signed off by adding, “This is so tragic but I know you are now at peace. I will always, always love you and hold a special place in my heart”.
Her heartfelt sentiment was echoed online as countless people on social media have paid tribute to the viral sensation who was an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and all things queer culture, as well as sex positivity in general.
As mentioned, it was only on 17 November that her ex-partner Spedding himself passed away, but the former footballer was also disturbingly found to be the one behind previous claims she had died that turned out to be a hoax earlier this year.
Regardless, the news unfortunately appears to be genuine this time and it’s clear from the reaction online how saddened so many people from all walks of life are to learn of her passing.