BNC Text G4U

Sewage - Severn-Trent Water: talk. Sample containing about 7129 words speech recorded in leisure context

3 speakers recorded by respondent number C198

PS26L Ag4 f (j. childs, age 50, sewage tmt expert) unspecified
G4UPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
G4UPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 096301 recorded on unknown date. LocationNottinghamshire: Southwell ( Southwell Probus Club ) Activity: Talk by Severn & Water Company

Undivided text

Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [1] I shall be talking [...] services today and [...] dealing with Clare from industries like Boots and [...] who discard their waste waters into sewers for treatment.
[2] More broad topic now on the subject of water.
[3] And a subject dear to your heart I'm sure, costs.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [4] Cos I I assume you all pay your water bills.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [5] And [...] get a good supply from Severn Trent.
[6] Erm Severn Trent is part of Severn Trent P L C, Severn Trent Water [...] is part of Severn Trent P L C, which is group of companies established following privatization in nineteen eighty nine.
[7] Incidentally I've been asked to keep the talk fairly short, to avoid nodding off.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [8] But I'm sure there's no danger of that.
[9] Erm we's we've had a number of changes in the water industry over the years.
[10] And I guess most of the people in this audience today would think of water being supplied by water boards.
[11] That always used to be the case of course.
[12] But there've been a number of changes over the years, certainly prior to nineteen seventy four that would be the case, water boards supplying water, local councils treating treating the sewage, and the rivers authorities looking after the river pollution aspects.
[13] In fact before nineteen seventy four there were over thirteen hundred agencies within England and Wales which dealt with the sewage side of the business.
[14] Some did it very well, like Nottingham for instance.
[15] Always had a good sewage treatment works at Nottingham.
[16] Some did it reasonably well, some did it very poorly.
[17] It was one of the reasons why the government in nineteen seventy four established water authorities.
[18] Ten water authorities for England and Wales.
[19] Which amalgamated all these bodies, previously dealing with the water as part of their business, supply, sewage treatment and river pollution control.
[20] [...] all those amalgamated into ten new bodies called water authorities.
[21] But were still called water boards by the press and by people in general.
[22] And then in nineteen eighty nine, the the government decided to split up the water authorities, privatize the utility part, that is treatment of of sewage and supply of water, and split up a regulatory body called the National Rivers Authority.
[23] Erm so now we are a water company, not a water board any more, a water company.
[24] Erm but we still get called water boards or water authorities.
[25] So I don't suppose they'll ever get it right.
[26] The same kind of P L C as a world wide company.
[27] We've got a lot of erm subsidiary companies.
[28] We employ ten thousand five hundred people.
[29] Nine thousand nine hundred of those in the U K.
[30] The other five hundred or so are scattered er throughout the world.
[31] Mainly in Europe and the United States.
[32] Severn Trent Water Limited provides services to eight point two million people.
[33] Worldwide we provide services to twenty million people.
[34] So we supply more people overseas that we are in the U K.
[35] We've got contracts in New York, we've got a contract in Mexico worth several hundred million pounds.
[36] A joint venture there to supply water services to Mexico City.
[37] We work in Belgium, we work in Italy, Germany, Puerto Rico, India, Malaysia, Chile and Hong Kong.
[38] Plus a few others, that I can't mention.
[39] [...] Eight point two million customers of which I assume that you are some of those.
[40] And the three hundred thousand businesses throughout Severn Trent region.
[41] Which is centred on Birmingham and goes up as far as the Humber Estuary and down as far as the Severn Estuary.
[42] We supply four hundred and thirty five million gallons of water a day, and that's a lot of water.
[43] We've got a hundred and ninety plants.
[44] Via twenty four thousand miles of pipes.
[45] Some of which in good condition, some of which in poor condition.
[46] And we're replacing all of those, year by year.
[47] We treat five hundred and seventy five million gallons a day of sewage.
[48] Which is a fair bit of sewage to treat.
[49] At over a thousand sewage works, via thirty two thousand miles of sewers.
[50] ... Now when we were privatized, there were those I'm sure who thought, It's a licence to print money.
[51] Which it would be of course if you weren't a regulated body.
[52] Erm all the privatized utilities like gas, electricity, telecoms, have all been privatized with a regulator to oversee the prices that are charged.
[53] And there's a pricing formula.
[54] The regulator for the water industry is OFWAT, Office of Water Services.
[55] And their director general, a guy named Ian resides in Birmingham, and he looks after your interests as customers.
[56] He'll he'll take he'll take his part if there's a if there's a dispute between a customer and the water company.
[57] And he also regulates the price very severely.
[58] You may not agree with that but of course the formula is is the retail price index plus a factor of K.
[59] K being positive, it means that prices are going up faster than inflation.
[60] And I I guess you've all seen that in the water bills that drop through your doors.
[61] K was set at five and a half percent in the first year.
[62] So if in if inflation went up say seven or eight percent in the first year, you're looking at prices in double figures.
[63] Twelve, thirteen percent.
[64] [...] ninety ninety one prices went up thirteen percent on average, and in ninety one ninety two by fifteen percent.
[65] The increases have been less of late because inflation's dropped and we've reduced our K value.
[66] But why why should we all have to pay more money for water?
[67] It's because we're investing a lot of capital expenditure to put right some years of neglect I might say.
[68] We're spending over two million pounds a day on capital expenditure.
[69] To improve the water service in terms of treatment plant, service pipes, sewage treatment plants and the rest of the infrastructure.
[70] That capital programme was agreed with government before privatization.
[71] What have we achieved?
[72] Well ... we are also monitored by other regulators.
[73] We have a regulator in terms of Ian and Office of Water Services.
[74] But we also have other regulators other watchdogs.
[75] We have the Drinking Water Inspectorate that monitors the quality of water that we put into your taps.
[76] And in nineteen ninety two, ninety nine point seven percent of all the samples that were taken, met all the standards.
[77] And the standards we have to meet are rigorously laid down regulations.
[78] We have to meet fifty six different standards for the quality of water.
[79] If you're partial to drinking bottled water, the report on Which you might like to read some time.
[80] ... Can't read the date on it.
[81] [...] I've probably missed the date somewhere.
[82] April nineteen ninety one.
[83] And there's also an equinox programme on Channel Four about bottled water.
[84] Fine, people drink bottled water because they don't particularly like the taste of ground water.
[85] Because of the chlorine that's that's present in that water to make it bacteriologically safe.
[86] But the quality of bottled water does vary.
[87] They don't analyze it as often as we do.
[88] And once you've opened that bottled water, then any bacteria which might be present, may multiply.
[89] So if you do use bottled water it's advisable to put it in the fridge after you've opened it.
[90] Interesting enough one of one of the controversial erm chemicals that people are concerned about with their water is nitrate.
[91] And there's a limit on the nitrate values in the supply that we give you.
[92] There's no limit on the nitrate values of bottles water.
[93] So they're working to different standards than that the water industry.
[94] So we're overseen by the watchdog, the Water Inspectorate publish an ann annual report, see how well we're doing.
[95] And we're doing as well as anyone in Europe.
[96] We also have another watchdog called the National Rivers Authority.
[97] They used to be part and parcel of the water authorities and looked after the rivers when we were one big body, as a water authority.
[98] But on privatization, they were split off to be the watchdog for what we put into the rivers.
[99] And what the quality of the water is in in the ground, in the in the rivers themselves.
[100] They look after land drainage and also er the fisheries.
[101] So they're a watchdog as well.
[102] Our samples that we ou our our effluence that we discharge to the rivers, met all the standards on ninety nine percent of samples last year.
[103] Which is the best ever we've done.
[104] Which is not the impression you get sometimes when you read the paper.
[105] Because if you read the paper we're called the dirty man of Europe.
[106] Implying that the water we supply is worse than what's in Europe, and the sewage effluence we put into rivers is not as good as the rest of Europe.
[107] We are the dirty man of Europe if you r if you read the papers.
[108] We are the only country that's been condemned in in the European courts for failing to meet the E C drinking water standards.
[109] In in terms of nitrates.
[110] But why?
[111] Why is this?
[112] I gu my guess is if I ask the audience I I may get an answer I don't like here.
[113] But if you go abroad do you drink the water out the taps? guess you d some do and some don't.
[114] But I would always ask, Is it safe to drink the water out the taps?
[115] And the reps on the holiday co coach when they take you from airport, sometimes say yes and sometimes say no.
[116] And so I resort to buying bottled water.
[117] But why is it that we're called the dirty man of Europe?
[118] Our data's available that's why.
[119] We have to publish public registers.
[120] The Rivers Authority [...] a public register, which details the quality of all the sewage effluence that goes into rivers, and it details the quality of those rivers.
[121] Readily available, you can go along to the N R A offices in Nottingham and ask to see the register.
[122] You will not get that information if you go on the continent.
[123] The Drinking Water Inspectorate publish an annual report.
[124] All the data is there for public inspection.
[125] Readily available, available to pressure groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.
[126] And they will read those reports and if we're failing anywhere, they'll highlight that.
[127] I bought a copy in of last weeks Daily Telegraph because interestingly enough, [cough] the press seems to be latching on to this er not playing by the rules.
[128] Anyone seen this?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [129] Yeah.
j. childs (PS26L) [130] They went to erm a number of cities in Europe, of all the countries in Europe, and tried to gather the data to compare the quality of water in their countries, to the quality in ours.
[131] Some were good, some couldn't produce any data whatsoever.
[132] And in two cases official that were supposed to give the data went missing.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [133] And that is the reason I think why we are called the dirty man of Europe.
[134] Because we're more open, we're more honest, the availa the information's there.
[135] Yes we can do better and yes we are getting better, but all that's gonna cost money.
[136] [...] . ... How expensive is tap water?
[137] Well ... it's about fifty pence a cubic metre if you have a er a metered water supply in Severn Trent, which is about point O five pence a litre.
[138] Erm bottle water is probably thirty, forty, fifty pence a litre.
[139] So in terms of price there's no comparison.
[140] But people don't but th they don't go for that [...] they go for that because they don't like the taste of chlorine.
[141] We accept that and we're looking at ways of improving that taste of water.
[141_1] And in many areas we've done that.
[142] We're moving towards more ozone treatment for water.
[143] We [...] amount of chlorine to maintain the bacteriological purity of it.
[144] I've pulled out a few press cuttings as well whilst I was looking through some of the [...] for this talk.
[145] The River Trent, not far away from here.
[146] Again you'd think that the Trent is er in a diabolical state.
[147] River worse than ever, it says here.
[148] [...] . A group set up not too far away from here in Newark said that the erm, It has been said that the river is worse now than it's ever been in history.
[149] Well that's a load of rubbish.
[150] Absolute rubbish.
[151] There is no way the River Trent is worse now than and time in history.
[152] If you go back thirty, forty, fifty years.
[153] It was certainly far more polluted than it ever is today.
[154] [cough] They said that because they catch their fish.
[155] And the N R A have come out with the reason now, saying that the river is cooler in the winter periods, when the fishing seems to be off, and the fish aren't biting.
[156] That's the N R A's reason for the river fishing being not so good.
[157] [cough] But the U K has some of the highest some of the best quality rivers in Europe.
[158] The percentage of rivers in in the U K in the classes one and two, which are good and satisfactory, are far higher, in the U K, than they are in Europe.
[159] Something like ninety percent of our rivers fall in those categories.
[160] Now the on the subject of treatment I I now pull out a government report here, because where do we get criticized from?
[161] Where do we get prosecuted?
[162] We got prosecuted in Brussels.
[163] Erm [...] E C court.
[164] Anyone been to Brussels?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [165] Yeah.
j. childs (PS26L) [166] Do you know what happens to sewage in Brussels?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [167] I think it goes straight in the river.
j. childs (PS26L) [168] Exactly.
[169] [laugh] They haven't got a treatment plant yet in Brussels.
[170] [cough] There's a report by the Sunday Times.
[171] Er let me read this few paragraphs from the Sunday Times report.
[172] [reading] Last week environmentalists, accompanied by the Sunday Times, visited the River Senn. []
[173] Which is the river in Brussels.
[174] [reading] Less than four miles from [...] [] That's the he was the environment minister at the time.
[175] [reading] headquarters and found evidence that the river is one of the most polluted in the twelve E C countries.
[176] [...] municipal depot, choked with s with nettles and weeds, the sewage of the Belgian capital flows untreated and unnoticed through two forty s foot square pipes into the Senn.
[177] It's a practice that Britain abandoned years ago.
[178] A ten foot wide brown slick oozed continually into the blue grey waters, in which no fish can survive, and no person would dare to [...] swim.
[179] Every inch added to the rivers reputation as the dustbin of Europe. []
[180] And that was written in May nineteen ninety one.
[181] They have now put steps in hand to build a sewage treatment works.
[182] The first part of it will be finishing next years, with another one in the year two thousand.
[183] But that's where we're getting criticized from.
[184] A place that doesn't have a sewage treatment works.
[185] I think it' disgraceful.
[186] [cough] ... But there is pressure to improve standards even more, in the U K.
[187] We have pressures to improve on on water quality although ninety nine point seven percent of our our water samples meet the tests.
[188] There's pressure to go even higher.
[189] And as you well know, or at least I hope you well know, as you approach sort of absolute sort of purity limits, the costs of doing so, escalate out of all proportion.
[190] The same with sewage treatment.
[191] There's another E C urban waste water directive treatment.
[192] Which will be enforced by the year two thousand requiring additional treatment for sewage effluence.
[193] In certain places.
[194] According to whether the [...] are designated sensitive or not.
[195] And those are gonna push up costs.
[196] Now the director general of the [...] watchdog is your friend.
[197] He's the guy who said, The escalation of prices has got to stop.
[198] We cannot carry on increasing water service charges by ten to fifteen percent, year in and year out.
[199] Where would it stop.
[200] People won't be able to afford to have the water services if you carry on in this way.
[201] So he's declared basically a dispute with the N R A amongst others, because he's identified that some of this pressure's coming from the Rivers Authority.
[202] Erm their their job is to make sure the rivers are clean.
[203] It's a question of how cle the ri should those rivers be?
[204] And how clean can we as a nation afford them to be.
[205] We could all have rivers brimming with salmon if you wish.
[206] But there's a price you're paying.
[207] And whether that price is worth paying is something only you can tell us.
[208] It's not for us to decide necessarily that we will we will treat effluence to a certain standard and pass the costs on to you, because that's where it all goes to.
[209] We erm we need to consult the customers.
[210] And this is what we've done.
[211] Now the current prices of water, I'm sure you think, Oh it's extortionate.
[212] [laugh] [cough] The average price in Severn Trent is a hundred and sixty four pounds per household.
[213] Now I guess from the affluent audience we've got here today that you pay more than that because you're living in higher rated value properties I guess.
[214] [cough] Correct me if I'm wrong.
[215] But [...] the average price in Severn Trent is a hundred and sixty four pounds per household per year.
[216] That compares with the rest of the water companies, we are second lowest.
[217] Thames is the lowest with a hundred and fifty two, and South West is the highest at two hundred and sixty six.
[218] That's the current prices.
[219] So South West is [cough] is a hundred pounds a year more than ours.
[220] On a day [...] basis, it's about forty five pence a day, which is er less than the price of a half a glass of beer.
[221] Or gentleman smoking there, it's less than four price of four cigarettes.
[222] Which I wouldn't have thought is extortionate in this day and age.
[223] So when you look at it on a yearly basis and a compare it to what it was a few years ago, Yes it's gone up a lot.
[224] But where will it go to if we're building all these new requirements to treat water and effluence to the higher standards.
[225] At the moment the er the regulators ask us to go to the to the customers, and this we have done, and produce something called market plans.
[226] Erm And you can all get a copy of this is you want to write to the water authority.
[227] Sorry, water company.
[228] Your future drinking water and sewage services [...] .
[229] It's just a twelve page document, but it's it's the result of a customer survey which was carried out.
[230] We sent out fifty thousand videos to random customers.
[231] Did anyone in the audience get a video from Severn Trent?
[232] Ah well done sir.
[233] And did you send back your questionnaire?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [234] Yes I did.
j. childs (PS26L) [235] Very good.
[236] Very good.
[237] And what did you think of it?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [238] I thought it was very interesting what the the company or whatever you call yourselves nowadays, was doing.
j. childs (PS26L) [239] Mm.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [240] Erm I think what bothers a lot of us is the quality of water we get locally.
j. childs (PS26L) [241] Right.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [242] I mean could you say something about that?
[243] I was going to
j. childs (PS26L) [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [244] ask a question but since you've asked me Alright .
j. childs (PS26L) [245] Well I'll c I'll [...] that later [...] .
[246] At least I'll try to [...] armed with the facts.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [247] We sent out fifty thousand of those videos.
[248] You might well that's an extortionate way of of er of conducting a a market research.
[249] But actually those videos cost s less than a pound to produce each.
[250] So that's fifty thousand pounds.
[251] But a pound a head we thought was good value.
[252] And then we followed that up with market research of five thousand customers at random.
[253] And we priced from from what the customers told us what they wanted, and then we would tell the customers how much that would cost, we got a feeling for the support for certain initiatives.
[254] Yes they all wanted clean rivers, but then when they were told the price of complying with the urban waste water directive, they were less keen.
[255] Erm they wanted er sewer overflows to be stopped.
[256] They wanted leakage from our pipes to be stopped.
[257] That probably was the highest priority of all I think.
[258] Erm [...] quickly.
[259] Yes eighty six percent wanted a substantial reduction on leakage, and sixty five percent wanted improved taste in the water.
[260] And there's a willingness to pay was high for those er for those benefits.
[261] The lower ones were improving storm sewer overflows and treating sewage even better, so there was less there was less enthusiasm for paying more money to improve sewage treatment works.
[262] But it's it's information that we need or the director general need in order to decide what prices will be set.
[263] Because we refer to South West again.
[264] They are spending a lot of money in the South West on cleaning up the beaches.
[265] They're providing sewage treatment plant, which they hadn't prov provided previously to send cleaner water into the seas.
[266] That is estimated to have cost between four hundred and five hundred pounds per household, by the year two thousand, if all those plans go through.
[267] And that's without inflation.
[268] Now inflation's very low at the moment, but if inflation took off again and got into double figures, then not only would your pensions suffer, but your bills would go up as well.
[269] We estimate in Severn Trent our bills'll be two hundred and twenty seven pounds by the year two thousand.
[270] Per household, which is lower than three of them currently are.
[271] And how will you pay?
[272] Erm historically we've paid, most people have paid on the basis of of rateable value.
[273] Rateable value times so much er pence per pound R V.
[274] Since nineteen eighty nine of course, rateable value's dis disappeared.
[275] When the wonderful new system the poll tax came in.
[276] And so all new houses built since that date, have had no rateable value assess [...] assessment.
[277] And so you can't use that system.
[278] So all new houses, certainly in Severn Trent region, since that date have had water meters.
[279] When we consulted our customers on how they wanted to pay for water, there was no clear preference.
[280] There was a slight preference maybe for water meters.
[281] Water meters can be argued to be fair.
[282] You have some influence over what you use, and so the size of the bill.
[283] Erm but it's an expensive system to install.
[284] And Severn Trent hasn't yet decided which way to go.
[285] There are a number of metering trials taking place throughout the U K.
[286] The Isle of Wight being one of them, substantial metering trials there.
[287] To see if the installation of metering on a large scale, does influence the er the usage of water, and if it does, and if that shows savings in the amount of water people people need, then maybe the water companies can reduce their reduce their capital investment programmes to provide even more water.
[288] So that the cost [...] .
[289] But it's early days yet and there's no there's no definite answer.
[290] But we'll have to find an answer by the years two thousand, because the way the legislation's written, means that by the year two thousand we can no longer use rateable value.
[291] So we've got to find an alternative.
[292] Most of our customers really prefer a system based on property type, be it semi detaches, terrace, detached, mansion, castle or whatever.
[293] Erm but whether we go that way it's not been decided yet.
[294] There is an optional metering scheme, and if you do live in a higher rateable value property, and you don't use er above average amounts of water, you'd probably you'd probably benefit from put a water in or have a water meter installed.
[295] [cough] ... So before you all nod off I'll just finish off.
[296] Er it's a large business is Severn Trent, er it's a growing business except we are in s in the water business in the U K [...] water [...] we are reducing numbers by about two percent a year.
[297] We're reducing our operating costs as well.
[298] But against that we've got these extra commitments in terms of higher quality which is again is pushing prices up.
[299] Our managing director Vic says in his market plan, that water services should be affordable, and I hope, I totally agree with that, they should be affordable, we shouldn't price people out of out of using our water services.
[300] And just finally I think compared to Europe we've got a lot to be proud of.
[301] Now if you want [...] is it er is it the done thing to have questions?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [302] Yes [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [303] Right.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [304] [...] .
j. childs (PS26L) [305] I hope I can answer them.
[306] I I er just [...] my background is er the dirty water side of the business rather than the clean water side.
[307] But I'll do my best.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [308] Yes?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [309] Er what is anything is being done about supplying er inclement weather conditions such as the snow we had a couple of years ago.
[310] When the water supply vanished because there wasn't [...] pumps.
[311] Is it sort of beyond [...] plan to
j. childs (PS26L) [312] No it's beyond the cost [...] I think.
[313] Erm
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [314] Put a generator in or som er
j. childs (PS26L) [315] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [316] er a diesel engine to to
j. childs (PS26L) [317] We've looked Strategic sites were looked at after that event of December the eighth.
[318] I remember it well.
[319] Erm because [...] we ran out of electricity on lunch time on the Saturday.
[320] That was restored on the Sunday, just at the same time as the water ran out.
[321] Erm yes there's been a been a long hard look at at our er vulnerability to to a shortage of of electricity.
[322] Erm that was strategic plans [...] I think [...] .
[323] We did have separate supplies in [...] station.
[324] [laugh] It was a completely unique event as far as we were concerned it'd never happened before and hopefully it'll never happen again.
[325] It always comes to a question of cost though.
[326] You know if it's a once in a hundred years event, is it worthwhile providing all the backup equipment you've got, for all the stations that you've got.
[327] Erm Hopefully [...] we would be better prepared next time, and that we can get in generators quickly if we don't already have them on standby.
[328] Some places do have them on standby.
[329] Some places never ran out of water. ... [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [330] Can you tell us something about the quality of water locally?
[331] Erm a number of years ago we read in the paper that the Farnsfield borehole was being updated and
j. childs (PS26L) [332] Mhm.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [333] [...] cost erm to improve the quality of the water.
[334] And yet after that was completed I think the Water the Drinking Water Inspectorate condemned it as being one of the worst qualities of water in the country.
j. childs (PS26L) [335] Erm in terms of what?
[336] Nitrate?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [337] In terms of nitrates and other solids yes.
j. childs (PS26L) [338] Nitrate levels have been rising in the ground water in Nottinghamshire, certainly most of the bore-holes, for the last twenty or thirty years.
[339] And we presume due to our agriculture, the use of fertilizers on the land, erm not entirely due to that.
[340] Not entirely [...] fertilizers but ... that seems to be er the main cause of it.
[341] They have set up nitrate sensitive zones in certain areas whereby farmers operate a different practice in within the the catchment area of a particular bore-hole.
[342] And more of those will come in because it's far better to prevent er not only nitrates but pesticides or anything else which is applied to land, getting into water.
[343] Because once it's in, it's far more expensive to get it out.
[344] So there are protection zones being, there are protection zones already in, and more are proposed.
[345] What we've done in North Notts is to sink some new bore-holes.
[346] And we are blending water supplies so that we can we can meet whatever limits are are applicable or appropriate.
[347] But if you have a problem with your water, in terms of taste or the quality, then you must phone us up.
[348] We'll give you a full report on what we're supplying.
[349] No problem about that.
[350] Nothing to hide.
[351] And if you've got some particular local problems, we'll we'll have a look at those as well.
[352] We are spe we are we're re-lining re-lining four thousand one hundred miles of mains.
[353] And re-laid seventeen hundred miles since nineteen eighty nine.
[354] In the town where I live, all the mains have been scraped and re-lined.
[355] The iron mains that were there.
[356] [...] main cause of sort of discoloration problems.
[357] What what particular problem have you got?
[358] With your water?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [359] Well the taste.
j. childs (PS26L) [360] The taste.
[361] It's just the chlorine.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [362] It's er partly chlorine yes but it there are occasions when it smells like T C P.
j. childs (PS26L) [363] Mm.
[364] That's mostly because of a reaction with the washer in your tap.
[365] Erm have you reported it [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [366] Oh yes yes we were told that nothing could be done about it.
j. childs (PS26L) [367] Oh well usually when you get T C P it's because the chlorine's reacting with a phenolic compound within the tap washer.
[368] And changing the washers usually does the trick.
[369] Erm we expect to see improvements on chlorine, but I can't give you a time [...] .
[370] We had to boost up chlorine levels actually, to meet E C directives.
[371] [laugh] I know the gentleman here thinks I shouldn't blame the E C for everything, but erm
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [372] No.
[373] Not everything.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [374] But we did have to boost up chlorine levels in [...] areas, because they weren't high enough.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [375] Er can I can I just follow on the question of local local water and the taste and quality of local water.
[376] Erm you're a bit dismissive about bottled water.
[377] But if I buy [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [378] No no no.
[379] I'm n I wasn't dismissive.
[380] Cos I
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [381] Well
j. childs (PS26L) [382] I buy it for my whisky because [...] .
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [383] If I buy if I buy bottled water, I get with that bottle, er an analysis of the water that I'm drinking.
j. childs (PS26L) [384] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [385] It's there on the label for me to see.
j. childs (PS26L) [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [386] Well for exam well at least I know how much sodium I'm taking in or what [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [387] You don't really.
[388] You know what's on the analysis bec because that's stated.
[389] But there's no there's guarantee that what you buy in the bottle complies to that analysis.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [390] Those aren't my words, [...] those are the words of which, the consumer's association.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [391] Where do I where do I find the analysis for Severn Trent local water.
j. childs (PS26L) [392] You er either phone us up at Road at Nottingham, or you call in to see us, and we'll give you an an exact breakdown of what's in your water supply.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [393] Why don't you send a little list round when you have the bills out.
j. childs (PS26L) [394] Because the logistics'd be impossible.
[395] You cannot you couldn't split up all our customers from Birmingham on a bore-hole by bore- hole basis.
[396] It'd be impossible.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [397] Yes.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [398] The figures you gave us at the beginning I I seem to remember that you sell a lot more water abroad than in this country.
[399] And [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [400] No [laugh] we treat more water abroad.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [401] Pardon?
j. childs (PS26L) [402] We treat more water abroad.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [403] Treat more.
[404] I see.
[405] Because you employ five hundred people
j. childs (PS26L) [406] Mm.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [407] in other countries to nine thousand five hundred.
j. childs (PS26L) [408] That's right.
[409] The nine th nine thousand includes Biffa Waste, which is a waste disposal company as well.
[410] It's about seventeen hundred people in there.
[411] Erm and the there's [...] we'll have some contractors as well working abroad.
[412] For most it's a lot of our services abroad are consultative.
[413] But we are actually running erm the the treatment works on Long Island in New York.
[414] And refurbishing that.
[415] This is Severn Trent Water International, it's not Severn Trent the local firm as it were.
[416] It's important that the company [...] that side of the business, because e profits are there for the taking.
[417] We have to compete obviously.
[418] There's no competition locally.
[419] As it were apart from the bottled water that the gentleman there buys.
[420] That's why we're regulated.
[421] That's why we're regulated.
[422] But with the other companies that have been established, and all water companies have done the same, the way to increase profits is to go into er a business which you're in competition with other businesses and you stand or fail as to how well you do on that.
[423] But y the profits are there and you can make profits w outside of the control of the regulators.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [424] Can I just ask you then, in relation to your waste disposal business, which is a fashionable diversification.
j. childs (PS26L) [laugh]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [425] Pardon?
j. childs (PS26L) [laugh]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [426] Yes er but most other water authorities have got their er er subsidiary operating in waste disposal.
j. childs (PS26L) [427] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [428] Don't don't you think that there's a conflict of interest there.
[429] Because vast quantities of this waste is tipped, it's land tipping.
j. childs (PS26L) [430] Mhm.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [431] Er and er obviously that does affect the ground water.
j. childs (PS26L) [432] Well it shouldn't do.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [433] Well er it shouldn't but it does .
j. childs (PS26L) [434] It shouldn't if it's tipped correctly and monitored correctly, and controlled correctly .
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [435] Ah yes but it's not tipped correctly most of the time.
j. childs (PS26L) [436] As well I'll disagree with that.
[437] I mean there are problems with ground water in certain areas, because of the tipping practices that have been historical.
[438] But in today if you if you had a new landfill site developed today.
[439] Well then the control of that would be very stringent.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [440] Yes but then thinking about those that have been running for some time.
j. childs (PS26L) [441] Yeah.
[442] And there have been problems with with ground water in some of those areas.
[443] Not only in areas where there have been tips I might add.
[444] There are problems with ground waters in certain industrial areas where er factory premises have allowed solvents to leak.
[445] There was a case recently in Anglia er [...] Anglia Water [...] Cambridge Water Company sued a leather works for [...] solvent over the years, to pollute the aquifer.
[446] And you know the sums were horrendous.
[447] Millions of pounds worth of damage.
[448] I mean they had to abandon the bore-hole [...] .
[449] And prevention is better than cure.
[450] You have to prevent these substances entering into the ground waters.
[451] Because as I say if you've got to clean them up afterwards, the costs are horrendous.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [452] You say that all new houses er [...] have no rateable value, are metered.
[453] How does the average er charge for metered water for those compare with the average for the other houses.
j. childs (PS26L) [454] [laugh] I've no idea it depends how much water they use.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [455] Well I know but the average figure I mean there
j. childs (PS26L) [456] Erm
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [457] there must be quite a number of houses in this category [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [458] There are.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [459] and it would be a good guide I think for people as to whether to have meters or not.
j. childs (PS26L) [460] Well if you work out on sort of er thirty or forty gallons per head per day.
[461] Erm per person, yeah.
[462] You can work out how much water you're going to use.
[463] Unless you've got a huge garden or a huge
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [464] Yeah.
j. childs (PS26L) [465] greenhouse that you want to to use tap water to irrigate.
[466] But that's about the domestic consumption.
[467] But the more appliances you have, the more washing machines, er more appliance [...] washing machines, the more dishwashers, garbage grinders and this is sort of ilk.
[468] That's gonna push the water consumption higher.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [469] Is there any possibility of going to a separate system and using er non potable water for all these other activities which must take up about seventy five or eighty percent of the quantities?
j. childs (PS26L) [470] Probably a lot more actually.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [471] Yeah.
j. childs (PS26L) [472] Probably ninety percent of the water of more I would guess e erm is used for non potable usage.
[473] And I suppose if we'd got a clean sheet, and we started again, we'd do it differently.
[474] Er but to actually provide a duplicate system now,I I dread to think how much the cost would be.
[475] Erm I mean one way to do it of course is to say that none of our water's fit for drinking, and you all get bottled water then wouldn't you.
[476] Well that was a seriously mooted thing at one time of course.
[477] Erm a a a and the idea of having potable and non potable supplies is not viable anyway because the public health risk is too high. [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [478] Is it viable to reduce the leakage [...] ?
j. childs (PS26L) [479] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [480] Is that a viable proposition?
j. childs (PS26L) [481] Yeah that's what we're spending a lot of money doing as well.
[482] Erm
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [483] But is it viable?
j. childs (PS26L) [484] Well you'll never eliminate leakage because leakage is a global term for water that we can't account for.
[485] And it includes it in yeah it includes water which is leaking from customers premises.
[486] Its' the overflow that's operating at night maybe when the pressures [...] .
[487] I mean one way we can accommodate that is to put pressure resistant valves in, maybe and drop the pressures a bit at night.
[488] But that leakage figure isn't just the leakage in our pipes, it's the leakage or the water that you can't account for going out of customers premises and factories as well.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [489] Well at least this would be a good er [...] on that wouldn't it.
j. childs (PS26L) [490] It would mean I mean we've just been involved with one of the hospital because there's an audit commission report on costs to hospital services.
[491] Which said basically they paid too much money for water.
[492] And we got involved with the local, National Healthy Facility I think they're called.
[493] Their energy engineer got in touch with us very early on.
[494] And erm it was we looked at one hospital and quite clear [...] over the years, but there was an internal leak somewhere.
[495] And we were able to find that for them.
[496] But erm reducing leakage is a i is a is a priority for us.
[497] But at the same time we'll never eliminate it completely.
[498] Never.
[499] I think the average figure's about nineteen percent.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [500] If you add that to the eight ninety percent that needn't be potable, it seems to be very attractive to er deliver it in bottles doesn't it.
j. childs (PS26L) [501] Well [...] it out yet.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [502] It's something I've thought about but I I I guess the cost would be horrendous but they wouldn't I don't know.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [503] What would it cost to in for me to install a meter in my house?
j. childs (PS26L) [504] The meters are supplied free of charge, it's er you can either o it yourself or you can get your local plumber to fit it.
[505] It has to be fitted in accordance with the bye-laws erm and we give out advice on where it should be fitted.
[506] But the meters free.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [507] Mm,
j. childs (PS26L) [508] Probably thirty or forty pounds at the most.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [509] Why why do you charge erm at least for for domestic premises, seventeen percent more?
[510] We moved in in the Autumn from .
j. childs (PS26L) [511] Mhm.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [512] And the the charge the pence in the pound, and I don't about the forget the rateable value.
[513] The
j. childs (PS26L) [514] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [515] pence in the pound here, is seventeen percent higher, than that that we were charged
j. childs (PS26L) [516] This is for what?
[517] For water?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [518] For water.
[519] Yes.
[520] For water and sew Well actual water water is seventeen, sewage is sixteen.
j. childs (PS26L) [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [521] Is that a technical reason or is that purely money judgement? ...
j. childs (PS26L) [522] There were eight charging zones in Severn Trent with difference p pence erm rateable values. [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [523] Oh so within Severn Trent I see.
j. childs (PS26L) [524] Erm it looks like you've gone from a lower cost one to a higher cost one.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [525] Mm.
j. childs (PS26L) [526] But if you go just across the river, to Anglia.
[527] [laugh] You'll find it's a lot more expensive.
[528] Especially on measured.
[529] If you've got a water in and you pay not only your water supply in but also your sewage out on the basis of what comes through the meter.
[530] So if you take a hundred gallons on a day [...] meter, you're charged for a hundred gallons of water going out as sewage, er the Anglia rate is is is double ours for sewage.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [531] [...] if you go to Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury's
j. childs (PS26L) [532] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [533] a tin of beans in the south will cost the same as a tin on beans in the north.
j. childs (PS26L) [534] Well yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [535] It's the same firm.
j. childs (PS26L) [536] We we we regionalized we have regionalize charges [...] speaking.
[537] Er this is [...] there is some disparity [...] the price for er measured supplies is the same, wherever you are.
[538] It's the rateable value charges which were different.
[539] And I can't really give you a satisfactory explanation as to why that is.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [...]
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [540] In [...] if everyone had a meter,
j. childs (PS26L) [541] Yeah.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [542] er as to what would happen to the metered charges as [...] as against what they are at the moment.
j. childs (PS26L) [543] Not as far as I'm aware at least not [...] I've read as to what would be the effect of that.
[544] But if there was a reduction in usage, if there was a reduction in usage, because people had got water meters in, then our charges or our costs for providing additional security er in terms of more reservoirs, increased pumping etcetera etcetera, would would be reduce.
[545] And we would pass on those benefits to the customer.
[546] Incidentally I don't know if you've been to [...] Anyone been to [...] Reservoir?
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [547] Yes.
j. childs (PS26L) [548] Because that's our a reservoir which was commissioned last year, to secure supplies for the East Midlands, cost us a hundred and seven million pounds.
[549] But it's a really good place to go to if you've got a any spare time and I'm sure [...] spare time, it's well worth going there, erm you can hire bikes.
[550] Er you can hire sail boats and er it's I I've been there a couple of times.
[551] I went there for the opening and I'm really proud to be associated with [...] water because I think it's I think it's a wonderful piece of engineering and [...] excellent.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [552] Right is there's no more questions, thank you very much Mr .
j. childs (PS26L) [553] Thank you.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [554] And a vote of thanks [...] .
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [555] [cough] Mr President, fellow members of Probus, I on your behalf would like to propose a vote of thanks to John , for the very lucid explanation he's given to us on the operations of Trent Water.
[556] Er just one small question from me John.
[557] Have Severn Trent got on the bandwagon yet, for tidying up the water in Brussels.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [558] Well Yes.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [...]
j. childs (PS26L) [559] Not necessarily Brussels but Belgium we're got a joint venture company [...] and we are sending our expertise to help them sort out the I think it's the erm the Flanders region anyway [...] Brussels.
[560] So we've got an involvement there.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [561] So possibly that might reduce our costs.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [laugh]
j. childs (PS26L) [562] Well hopefully.
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [563] Well thank you John for that very interesting talk, and perhaps the members of Probus would join me in giving you that
Unknown speaker (G4UPSUNK) [applause] [end of recording]