Yet again our sceptred isle has been turned into a septic one. Shakespeare's 'precious stone set in the silver sea' is once more being lapped by stinking sewage.
Last weekend, Southern Water – notorious even in the disgracefully dirty water industry – pumped raw sewage out of more than half its outlets around the South East coast, soiling clear water and beautiful beaches from the Isle of Wight to Kent.
In places, the discharges continued for more than 40 hours.
This latest episode is no isolated outrage. Last year, shockingly, there were more than 400,000 such incidents involving streams, rivers and the sea around the country, lasting a staggering three million hours.
Last weekend, Southern Water pumped raw sewage out of more than half its outlets around the South East coast, soiling clear water from the Isle of Wight to Kent (stock image)
This appalling record is the result of decades of failure by the water companies to clean up their act – despite raking in vast profits – and a light-touch approach by the authorities designed to regulate them.
Some of the pollution is from sewage works, but most gushes from overflow pipes which are only supposed to release such filth in 'exceptional' circumstances.
Southern Water's action will raise a special stink since, less than three months ago, it was fined £90million after pleading guilty to 51 charges of releasing raw sewage in the 'worst case brought by the Environment Agency in its history'.
The prosecution claimed that this was done 'deliberately' because 'it was a far cheaper alternative than to properly treat it' and that, as a result, the company – ultimately owned by American, Australian and British investment funds – had reaped 'considerable financial advantage'.
The court heard that the discharges – which caused 'very considerable environmental damage' – were 'known about and permitted at a high level in the company',