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Untreated sewage illegally spilled for years, Welsh Water admits

19 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Sewage pipe outfall into the river.

Dozens of Welsh Water treatment plants have been illegally spilling untreated sewage for years, the company has admitted.

After being presented with analysis by the BBC, the company said between 40 and 50 of its wastewater treatment plants are currently operating in breach of their permits.

The analysis was shared with the BBC by mathematician and former University College London Professor Peter Hammond, from campaign group Windrush Against Sewage Pollution.

After requesting data on 11 Welsh treatment plants, Prof Hammond found that 10 had been releasing untreated sewage in breach of their permits.

A plant is allowed to discharge untreated sewage in order to ensure it does not become overwhelmed during heavy rain.

However, it is not allowed to release any before it reaches the overflow level stipulated on its permit.

The BBC reported that the worst offender is the Cardigan plant in west Wales, which illegally spilled untreated sewage for a cumulative total of 1,146 days from the start of 2018 to the end of May 2023.

Uncomfortable

“This is the worst sewage works I’ve come across in terms of illegal discharges,” Prof Hammond said.

Steve Wilson, managing director for wastewater services at Welsh Water, told the BBC: “We’re not proud of this at all.

“It’s a very uncomfortable position to be in – but it’s not for the want of trying. We have been trying to fix this.”

Work is scheduled to begin on a new £20 million treatment plant for Cardigan in 2025.

The BBC reported that regulator Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has been aware of the issues at the Cardigan plant for eight years and has issued enforcement notices but no fines.

Huwel Manley, head of operations for south-west Wales at NRW, told the broadcaster: “We have prosecuted Welsh Water on a number of instances for pollution events, just not for low flow spills as is the case here.

“But we are working with trying to set national guidance along with England so that we have a more standardised approach as to how and when we take that prosecution route.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and MS for Mid and West Wales Jane Dodds MS has called for a review of Dwr Cymru following admission of illegal sewage dumping.

She said: “This is a shocking admission and the Welsh Government can no longer dodge the issue.

“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 Dŵr Cymru and it’s operation. The Welsh Labour Government must take those calls seriously or risk the future of our rivers.”


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karl
karl
6 months ago

As if we didn’t know this, and the EU didn’t fine for this. but lower standards is what fools voted for. Go swim in your rewards.

tulip
tulip
6 months ago

shpild we privatise it?

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
6 months ago
Reply to  tulip

It is a private company, just not for profit, the company owns itself. The question should be should it be nationalised, like in Scotland and which does not have anything like the same level of problems.

b barker
b barker
6 months ago

Time to stop the ‘not for profit’ tag line if bosses are getting paid so much with bonuses

saveenergy
saveenergy
6 months ago
  1. Prosecute the directors
  2. claw back the bonuses ( unless they ARE for dumping sewage),
  3. the £££ that are going to be wasted on more AMs should be used to improve the treatment plants; the technology exists but is expensive.
Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
6 months ago
Reply to  saveenergy

It is a private company why should the Senedd pay for the company’s mismanagement?

Rob Thomas
Rob Thomas
6 months ago

The Welsh Assembly has no control over Welsh Water. It is only the National Government that can take them to task.

Windy
Windy
6 months ago

Bonuses were and still are being paid for failure while the company records a financial loss

Ap Kenneth
Ap Kenneth
6 months ago

The issue of enforcement notices is ineffective if it is not followed up with fines. The fines could at least pay for the monitoring of the situation so it does not fall on the public purse. The situation does reek of a cosy relationship between Dwr Cymru and NRW though.

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