COUNCILLORS have  slammed South West Water’s decision to raise its divided payouts by an ‘inflation busting’ 8.3% despite the continuing widespread discharge of sewage into Teignbridge’s waterways. 

Despite Ofwat creating new regulations to prevent dividends being paid on poor environmental performance, South West Water paid out over £50 million in dividends to a complex web of shareholders, including New York-based investment company Black Rock. 

Martin Wrigley, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate said: ‘This adds insult to injury, whilst shareholders get an inflation busting dividend, local people have to put up with the River Teign and Teignmouth’s beaches suffering from disgusting sewage dumping’

According to Environment Agency Data, the River Teign was the site of over 850 separate sewage dumps last year, amassing to over 7,000 hours of discharging raw sewage. 

In 2022, the Environment Agency downgraded Teignmouth Town Beach’s water quality from three to two stars. The rating remained at two stars this year as well, resulting in the beach losing its prestigous Blue Flag Award last year. 

On Tuesday, every single sewage outflow monitored in Teignbridge had released sewage. These were Shaldon, Teignmouth Town Beach, Holcombe, Coryton Cove and Dawlish Town Beach. Devon more widely also saw mass sewage discharges over the weekend. 

Typically, the pollution is a result of South West Water’s infrastructure having to discharge the contents of its sewage systems into rivers and seas during wet weather, to prevent systems becoming overloaded with water.

While the use of these sewage overflows is common and usually permitted by the Environment Agency, there has been widespread criticism around the frequency and necessity of their use.

South West Water was the second worst for their use of sewage overflows in 2022, pumping raw sewage into the South West’s waterways for over 290,000 hours. 

Figures from the Environment Agency show storm overflows were used 3,184 times within Teignbridge’s local authority boundaries in 2022, discharging for a total of around 25,478 hours.

Teignmouth Town Cllr Steve Welsh said: ‘It’s disgraceful that water companies continue to dump tonnes of sewage into our local rivers. It is outrageous that the Conservative Government continues to let them get away with it.’ 

A South West Water spokesperson said: ‘We are delivering record levels of investment, particularly in environmental initiatives such as reducing storm overflows and developing new water resources. 

‘We have continued to make progress on delivering for customers, improving operational resilience across the group through an 87% step up in investment, supported by a healthy balance sheet.

‘South West Water has significantly reduced pollution incidents across the region, with the number of overall incidents down by 30% year on year, the lowest for over 10 years and serious pollution incidents have been reduced by 75%. 

‘We are fully committed to playing our part in protecting our region’s natural environment. We continue to reduce pollutions and target zero serious pollutions by 2025.’