Debt-ridden Thames Water installs rainbow Pride drain covers

EXCLUSIVE: Debt-ridden Thames Water installs a series of rainbow Pride drain covers – as shareholders pump another £750m into the utility giant as it struggles with £14billion debts

  •  The move has been deemed as ‘greenwashing’ by campaigners

A debt-ridden water company just fined millions for a devastating sewage spill has installed a series of Pride drain covers.

This week shareholders were forced to step in to plug a financial black hole in struggling Thames Water, which serves 15 million customers but has debts of around £14billion.

It comes after the company was ordered to pay £3.3million after it discharged millions of litres of raw sewage into two rivers, killing 1,400 fish.

But it has now been revealed that despite its troubles, the under pressure water provider has installed a handful of rainbow drain covers meant to ‘celebrate diversity and inclusion.’

Campaigners yesterday slammed the idea as ‘greenwashing’ and accused the company of insulting customers’ intelligence.

The LGBT drain cover outside Twickenham Stadium in south west London

Campaigners yesterday slammed the move as ‘greenwashing’ and accused the company of insulting customers’ intelligence

The latest in its Pride drain covers was installed outside Twickenham Stadium in Twickenham, south west London, in April.

They are built by civil engineering manufacturers Wrekin and feature silver raindrops clustered around a rainbow circle, using the bright Pride colours.

Company bosses previously placed similar covers in Reading and Swindon, where there are annual Pride events.

READ MORE: Thames Water races to secure new backing in bid to save company as customers fear price hikes

But water campaigners say they can’t believe how idiotic the idea is.

Clean river campaigner Angela Jones – who has been battling to save her local River Wye in Herefordshire from pollution – said: ‘It’s greenwashing.

‘The water companies are chucking money at certain things to soften the real issue.

‘How dumb do they think we are? The issue is they are polluting.’

And wild swimmer Angela added: ‘My life is the water. The water is inclusive to everybody. We don’t give special treatment to certain people.

‘We are all just one and we all just ask the same thing, which is having clean ecosystems.’

The latest Pride drain cover was unveiled by Thames Water outside Twickenham Stadium on April 25.

Its aim is to ‘celebrate diversity and inclusion within the company’s workforce and the customers and communities it serves.’

The cover is located in front of the stadium and has been painted in rainbow colours as well as black and brown to represent LGBTQ+ people from black and Asian backgrounds.

The design includes LGBTQ+ symbols along with the logos of Thames Water and the cover manufacturers, Wrekin Products and the slogan ‘Every rainbow needs a little water to shine.’

According to a press release, the words, chosen by Thames Water employees, are said to ‘link to the company’s core purpose of water management and expresses how communities shine and thrive because of the diversity within them. ‘

The company has also installed rainbow covers in Reading and Swindon where it has supported local annual Pride events.

There are two other commemorative drain covers in London to mark the clearing of the infamous 2017 Whitechapel Fatberg and on Abbey Road to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles album.

Emily Goren, Chair of Thames Water Pride Network, said: ‘We are delighted to be unveiling this unique cover at Twickenham Stadium.

‘We’re proud to be an inclusive employer and want our workforce to represent the communities we serve.

‘The drain covers are there for all to see and are a perfect canvas to promote our values.

‘This is a highly visible statement piece which reflects our appreciation to our LGBTQ+ employees and customers.

‘We’d like to thank our partners at Wrekin for making the cover and Cappagh for installing it for us and are proud to be part of a collaboration which works to support the LGBTQ+ community.

READ MORE: 10 former key watchdog staff quit for senior jobs at water firms within three years, leading to claims a ‘conflict of interest’ has left regulator unable to manage its debts

‘Whilst the cover will be a functional part of our wastewater network, we also hope people will be able to enjoy the artwork and LGBTQ+ members of the public feel seen and valued.’

According to Wrekin, which made the cover, it is also backed by the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Wrekin spokesman, Simon Turner, said: ‘We know that our covers are here to stay, given the longevity of our ductile iron, so this is the perfect way to keep Pride in the spotlight.

‘Our collaboration with Thames Water goes from strength to strength, and the extension of this partnership to send an important message pleases us.’

It comes after Thames Water was fined last week for a 2017 sewage release which was devastating to aquatic life.

There was a ‘significant and lengthy’ release of sewage from treatment works near Gatwick Airport in October 2017 into the Gatwick Stream in Sussex and River Mole in Surrey, a court heard.

A pump at the company’s sewage treatment works in Crawley was activated in error.

This led to a storm lagoon discharging sewage and rainwater into the stream, pushing it into the Mole, despite there being no significant rainfall.

Clean river campaigner Angela Jones – who has been battling to save her local River Wye in Herefordshire from pollution – said: ‘It’s greenwashing. The water companies are chucking money at certain things to soften the real issue. ‘How dumb do they think we are? The issue is they are polluting’

Thames Water admitted four charges in an Environment Agency prosecution.

It was handed the £3.3m fine during sentencing at Lewes Crown Court last week.

Meanwhile earlier this week shareholders agreed to provide a further £750m in funding as the company attempts to fight the threat of government control.

Thames also said it would be looking for an extra £2.5bn between 2025 and 2030.

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