Severn Trent boss defends firm's record on sewage pollution in rivers

The boss of Severn Trent has defended the company's record on the issue of sewage pollution in rivers, amid an existing increase in customer water bills.

Water companies are under scrutiny like never before - largely down to raw sewage being pumped into rivers, like in Worcester.

It's an issue Severn Trent insists it is tackling as quickly as possible.

Severn Trent site Credit: ITV News Central

Liv Garfield, the Chief Executive of Severn Trent said:

"We've actually invested £350m in the last two years alone of our own money into going quicker.

"I hear the public frustration, I absolutely acknowledge it, people want me to work faster and harder - and we will do - but we are genuinely throwing everything at it in the organisation."

She says it's working - with the amount of river pollution down to the water industry falling.

But Defra and the Environment Agency told ITV News Central that its figures show the water industry is responsible for 35% of pollution in rivers.

With the eyes of the government, and campaigners, on the sector - Severn Trent has now announced a £13 billion investment plan for the Midlands by 2030.

Improving water quality is one of the top priorities - and it says it will create 7,000 jobs in the process.

Campaigners say they aren't impressed, and the investment does mean higher bills for customers - up from an average of £379 next year to £533 in 2028.

The company which supplies water to homes across parts of the Midlands, says there will be more help for those who need it.

Liv said:

"We’ll actually be supporting 1.7 million customers with financial hardship support to make sure that everybody feels comfortable with the bill.

“We make sure we invest at least four times as much in infrastructure as we pay in dividends.

"It’s important that shares only go up by the price of inflation, but they do go up by the price of inflation.

"What we wanted to do to protect bills though is we’ve actually put bills up by lower than inflation".

The investment hasn't affected shareholder dividends - which increased this year, paying out around £260 million.

This was a rare interview for the firm's Chief Executive, who insists she is determined to tackle pollution, and reach net zero as a company.

It's no mean feat - and the clock is ticking.