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Dŵr Cymru bosses to face Westminster grilling following sewage dumping admission

19 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Sewage pollution

MPs are set to grill Dŵr Cymru bosses at Westminster on Thursday (23 November) following the company’s admission last month that it had been illegally dumping sewage for years.

Welsh Water confirmed that between 40 and 50 of its wastewater treatment plants are currently operating in breach of their permits after being shown data by an environmental campaigner.

Analysis by Professor Peter Hammond, from campaign group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, showed the worst offender is the Cardigan plant in west Wales, which spilled untreated sewage on 1,146 days from the start of 2018 to the end of May 2023.

The plant discharges into the River Teifi, which flows into Cardigan Bay – the home of Europe’s largest population of bottlenose dolphins.

Prof Hammond’s analysis of data over a five-year period showed there were 2,274 days when untreated sewage was released in breach of a permit.


Water treatment works are allowed to discharge untreated sewage in order to ensure it does not become overwhelmed during heavy rain, but this overflow level is regulated by permit.

Welsh Water said it plans to build a new £20 million water treatment works for Cardigan as part of a £40 million package in the county.

In a three panel session, the MPs will also hear from Professor Peter Hammond (whose data prompted the admission), regulators Ofwat and Natural Resources Wales, before hearing from Dŵr Cymru’s Chief Executive, Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of Wastewater Services.

Among other issues, the Committee will be probing what action Dŵr Cymru is now taking to prevent further sewage spills, whether the system of self-reporting is working appropriately and what powers regulators have in penalising water pollution events.

This is the third evidence session the Committee is holding in relation to its work on Water quality in Wales. In April, following the initial hearing, Committee Chair Stephen Crabb wrote to the Minister for Climate Change stressing the urgency that Wales’ ageing combined sewerage system must be replaced to avoid further sewage discharges.


Following Dŵr Cymru’s admission,  Natural Resources Wales launched an investigation examining the severity and frequency of permit breaches by the water company.

Politicians also called for a review of the company and called for tougher action against sewage dumping from the Welsh Government.

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for climate change, Delyth Jewell MS said: “This is hugely concerning for our natural environment. Untreated sewage can lead to a myriad of problems for our rivers and the ecosystems they support. Urgent answers are needed to explain why Dŵr Cymru has not faced penalties for these ongoing failures and why this situation has persisted for almost a decade without decisive action.

“It is also crucial that the Welsh Government exercises all the constitutional powers at its disposal to strengthen our environmental governance arrangements over water. Through our Co-operation Agreement with the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru has secured a commitment for legislation in this regard.”

Janet Finch-Saunders, the Welsh Conservative shadow climate change minister, said: “Welsh Water has broken the law and must face the consequences.

“At a time when Welsh Water are planning to increase bills, even though their customers experience the second highest average bill in Wales and England, is completely unacceptable when they have been misleading the public for years and dumping harmful sewage into our waterways.

“The Labour Government need to follow the lead of the UK Government and start holding this disgraceful dumping to account by fining and start prosecuting Welsh Water, their inaction is harming our environment and waterways.”

Tougher action

Jane Dodds, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrat, added: “We have the second highest bills across the whole of England and Wales, company bosses have been awarded thousands in bonuses and at the same time have been illegally dumping sewage into our rivers.

“I have repeatedly led calls in the Senedd for tougher action on sewage dumping and for a full review of Dwr Cymru and its operation.

“The Welsh Labour Government must take those calls seriously or risk the future of our rivers.”

Earlier this month, Peter Perry, chief executive of  Dŵr Cymru, told the Senedd’s Climate Change Committee, told MSs that the company has 3,500 permits and flagged less than 200 to Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

“It’s inevitable with an imperfect infrastructure that you’re going to find things,” he said. “But we have always been totally open and transparent.

“When we find those problems, we flag them – we then work with NRW to prioritise fixing them…. This has never been treated in an underhand way.”

He added that nobody “gets out of bed in the morning looking to cause pollution”.

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5 months ago

If there will be any penalty fines to pay the chief executives of the company should be personally fined and not the company. Penalising the company will only lead to increased bills to recoup the loss. In other words…. the customer ends up paying the fine and the increase won’t be taken off when the cost of the fine is recovered.

5 months ago

Fines on the company will result on less money being available to carry out remedial work. Bonuses were paid because people at the top were doing their job well. These pollution incidents suggest the company was not being run well. This is the part of the budget that should be looked at to pay for fines.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
5 months ago

All utilities should be nationalised!

There should be no shareholders siphoning off the profits to tax havens!

The profits should be used to upgrade the infrastructure, instead of ever increasing customer bills.

5 months ago

I think you will find that the bonuses awarded are in the hundreds of thousands per director, adding up to millions £££ !! How can it be said they are doing a good job, when we have a failing infrastructure that has been constantly discharging raw sewage into rivers all over Wales for years. Many of the most polluted rivers in the UK are here in Wales, essentially down to poor waste management from dwr cymru. Time to stop awarding people for doing a poor job! The clean and waste water infrastructure in Wales needs a major overhaul!

5 months ago

All forms of bonus payments, monetary or shares and no substantial pay increases be awarded to directors until the company is run properly, these people should not be rewarded for failure, some sort of independent inquiry into how the money that is generated by its consumers should also be carried out.

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