Government urged to respond to quarry pollution incident
The deputy leader of Plaid Cymru’s Senedd group has urged the Welsh Government to respond to National Resources Wales’ (NRW) findings that Caerphilly County Borough Council (CCBC) allowed hazardous chemical waste to spill from a landfill site on to a public road earlier this year.
The local authority manages the Ty Llwyd quarry in Ynysddu, where toxic waste from chemical manufacturer Monsanto, including carcinogenic PCBs, was dumped in the 1960s and 1970s.
In January this year, heavy rains caused contaminated liquid, known as leachate, to spill from the quarry and flow through a woodland used by children and dog walkers onto a public road.
After the initial reports, the council denied that any of the water leaving the woodland was contaminated, saying it treated the leachate in an aeration chamber, leaving “just normal surface water run-off”.
Several days later, reporters from the PA news agency found this chamber to be overflowing with brown foamy liquid that gave off a malodourous smell.
Samples taken by independent councillors Jan Jones and Janine Reed from the chamber and analysed by Greenpeace scientists found the liquid to be heavily contaminated with dangerous chemicals, including PCBs.
NRW said they attended the site on January 3 and have been investigating the pollution since, taking their own samples.
Last month they issued a warning to CCBC saying the council committed an offence of causing or knowingly permitting a water discharge activity and that pollution to land and water had occurred.
Calling for a statement, Delyth Jewell said, “the contamination of rivers, waterways and land is an issue that causes public anger”.
“ A letter issued by Natural Resources Wales has been made public saying that environmental offences have been committed at the site, accusing the council of allowing liquids that were contaminated with hazardous chemicals to spill from the landfill site to a public road. I visited the site with my colleague Peredur and local councillors, and I know campaigners, including Greenpeace and the Reverend Paul Cawthorne, have been deeply worried.
“There is a concern locally still that there hasn’t been complete transparency about what has happened that the site.
“I’d like the statement, please, to reiterate guidance for local authorities to ensure that it isn’t repeated—I know there are concerns about other sites, including Maendy; to set out what can be done to empower local people to know more about what’s happening to the land under their feet; and, finally, to set out what steps the Government will take to ensure that other sites of public land aren’t similarly contaminated by harmful and even carcinogenic waste.”
Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd conceded: “We are seeing far too many pollution incidents in our rivers, due to a variety of causes. You’ll be very aware, I’m sure, of the water quality summits. We’ve had two now that have been held, which the First Minister has chaired (and) we will be having a third one later this year.
“We work with all our partners there. They’re round the table with us at these summits, including local authorities, who are very well aware of the guidance.”
Jon Goldsworthy, operations manager for NRW, said its warning to the council was “based on the proportionality of the offence committed and the ongoing commitment CCBC are making in ensuring future discharges do not occur”.
He added: “We will also be recharging CCBC for our costs of responding to and investigating the incident under the polluter pays principle.
“It is likely that CCBC will require a permit to discharge to water or ground and they have appointed consultants to advise them of the necessary actions to control any further pollution from this site.”
CCBC said in a statement: “NRW have completed their investigation of the contaminated water (leachate) breach that occurred below Ty Llwyd quarry in early January 2023 as result of a prolonged rainfall event.
“The level of rainfall caused the leachate drainage system serving the quarry to overtop, resulting in water containing leachate to leave owned land known as Pantyffynnon woodland and discharge on to the public highway below the site.
“Since the event, the council has continued to work in partnership with NRW in relation to Ty Llwyd and have recently entered in to pre-application discussions to determine whether there is a requirement for a formal water discharge consent to be in place at the site.”
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