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United Utilities offer £75 compensation following complaint about sewage dumping in river

Matt Marlow, an angler and campaigner, is withholding payment for the part of his water bill that covers waste removal in protest against sewage dumping

Northern Reporter, inews

April 17, 2023 3:39 pm

An environmental campaigner who is protesting against sewage dumping by refusing to pay part of his water bill has accused his supplier of “attempting to shut him up” by paying him £75 in compensation.

Matt Marlow, chair of the River Anglers Conservation Group based in Stockport, Greater Manchester, has accused water company United Utilities of causing serious damage to rivers close to where he lives, including the Goyt and Mersey.

The company was found to have discharged untreated sewage into waterways in the North West almost 70,000 times in 2022, more than any other firm in the country.

Mr Marlow is refusing to pay the part of his water bill that covers removal of waste as he believes United Utilities have not provided the service.

He is also demanding the company give him a rebate for the money he has paid for waste removal dating back 14 years. It follows similar action by campaigners around the country to highlight the poor performance of water companies to stop untreated sewage entering the UK’s waterways.

In response to his demands, United Utilities offered Mr Marlow £75 in credit to his account, saying it was being paid due to a two-month delay in getting back to him and insisting that he must pay his bill in full.

Matt Marlow, chair of the River Anglers Conservation Group in Greater Manchester, campaigns against pollution in the River Goyt and River Mersey.

He described the credit as “an attempt to shut me up” which is “not suitable in any way”.

In his latest email to the company, Mr Marlow wrote: “I find the thought of fishing, my dog swimming, kayaking, wild swimming, in a mixture of local untreated sewerage and sanitary products utterly disgusting and not something that I should be charged for.

“If I paid someone to clear out my garage and take rubbish away to the tip, but instead they fly-tipped it into the countryside, I would be disgusted and angry and that is what you are doing with my/our waste.

“Not to mention the untold damage to our rivers and seas ecosystems, damage to our fish, flora and fauna, caused by your constant pollutions.”

A customer services adviser wrote back: “I appreciate you feel strongly about this matter but your bill covers the removal of wastewater from your home and remains payable.

“I have applied a credit of £75.00 to your water account as an apology for the delay. An updated bill will be sent in the next week.”

A United Utilities spokesperson said the £75 compensation is not linked to Mr Marlow’s complaint about sewage dumping, but the delay in responding to him.

But Mr Marlow has vowed to continue his bill protest until United Utilities provides evidence that it has stopped discharging sewage into rivers.

“It’s hush money and it ain’t going to work,” he said. “I think United Utilities and all the water companies are rattled – if it were to go to court I think they would lose.

“How can you charge people for something you haven’t given them?”

In 2020, Mr Marlow took a video of what appeared to be raw sewage being pumped into the River Mersey during clear conditions and complained to the Environment Agency.

The Government’s watchdog later confirmed the firm had committed a pollution offence but that it decided not to prosecute because the incident wouldn’t have caused any “lasting damage”.

Residents have reported finding rubbish such as wet wipes and sanitary towels littered along riverbanks as well as foul smells in certain areas.

A United Utilities spokesperson told i: “We understand the concern about storm water overflow operation and we are committed to delivering a step change in performance.

“We have already reduced spill frequency by 40 per cent since 2020 and we know there is more to do.

“We have ambitious plans to deliver one of the largest environmental improvement programmes in the country and we now have approval to fast track that and begin to deliver £900m of improvements early, bringing region-wide benefits, reducing storm overflows, creating jobs, and boosting the resilience of local communities and the environment.”

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