January 27, 2023

A private water company responsible for maintaining a 50-year-old asbestos-cement pipe that burst and left thousands of people in Sheffield without gas should spend “much more” of its £242 million annual profit on upgrading its infrastructure, a government official said. member of parliament.

With snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures, at least 200 households in the northwest Sheffield area were still without gas on Monday, 11 days after the Yorkshire Water main burst, flooding the gas network with more than 1.5 million liters of water. Initially, about 2,000 homes were affected.

Olivia Blake, the Labor MP for Sheffield Hallam, said Yorkshire Water had “very deep pockets” and should properly compensate all those affected in the Stannington and Malin Bridge area of ​​Sheffield, as well as invest much more of its profits in replacing old pipes at the end of their service life.

“Not enough of their profits go into upgrading their infrastructure, and we see the results not only in the current situation in Sheffield, but in the sewage they pour into our rivers and waterways and the leaks that are popping up in communities everywhere said Blake, who was previously the shadow water minister.

She added: “There have been a series of failures over many years, clearly driven by a lack of profit. Yorkshire Water has very deep pockets and should be doing a lot more.”

Feargal Sharkey, the water campaigner and former Undertones front man, said the situation in Sheffield showed that “it is time to hold water company executives personally and collectively accountable”.

Experts say the 23,000 miles of asbestos cement pipes installed in Britain are approaching the end of their 50-70 year life, with 6% of Yorkshire Water’s pipes still needing replacement.

The Sheffield main had burst before, most recently in 2013, Yorkshire Water said. But the company added it had “no concerns” about drinking water in the Stannington and Hillsborough area after collecting samples since the incident began. About £500,000 has been spent on pipes in the affected areas over the past two years, a spokesman said.

A spokesman for Cadent, which manages the gas distribution network, said Monday morning that “just over 200 homes” were still waiting to be connected after the December 2 incident. Most of these are in the Malin Bridge, which is at the bottom of a hill and was thus particularly hard hit as the water in the pipes was pulled down by gravity.

“We hope that all these buildings will be able to run on gas again by the end of the day,” said the spokesman. Eight of those are on the vulnerable priority register, she added.

Yorkshire Water made an operating profit of £242.3m on a turnover of £1.18bn in 2021-22 according to its annual performance report. The company said it spent £434.1 million “on acquiring, maintaining and improving assets and infrastructure”. It paid £52.6m in dividends, which a spokesperson said were “payments to the holding company to cover operating costs and service charges for holding-level debt”.

The company was fined £10.2m by the regulator for failing to meet internal sewer overflow targets and a further £2.48m for pollution incidents, and £7.42m for a total of 41 “significant water supply events” causing customers were without water for at least an hour. least 12 hours.

Yorkshire Water has so far agreed to pay an automatic payment of £30 to all affected customers in Sheffield to cover excess energy costs. It also invites households to claim additional costs and water damage incurred through a form on its website.

Yorkshire Water said: “Our profits are invested directly into improving our clean and wastewater networks to develop innovative ways of working and deliver the best value for our customers. We have not paid dividends to investors for the last seven years and during that time we have invested £2.5bn in maintaining, innovating and growing the company and its assets to be ready for the future.”

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