Wye and Usk pollution plan to be considered by councillors
Twm Owen, local democracy reporter
A plan that aims to address pollution in two of Wales’ most famous rivers and the ocean is to be considered by councillors.
In March, Monmouthshire County Council became the first local authority in Wales to commit to protecting the ocean when it adopted a ‘rivers and ocean’ policy as recognition of the impact of improving the quality of rivers on the health of the ocean.
A report outlining steps the council can take will now be considered by councillors on Tuesday, September 27.
The council had agreed an update should be brought before it within six months when it backed the ‘motion for rivers and ocean’ in March.
The council said it recognises concern among local communities which formed campaign groups and staged marches to highlight and demand action on the state of the rivers Wye and Usk, which both flow through the county.
Both rivers are designated as Special Areas of Conservation for their water quality, but a draft report to be presented to councillors states “over recent years the water quality has deteriorated significantly”.
It says there this is due to a “complex range of issues, including sewage releases… and phosphates and nitrates entering the rivers due to agricultural activity”.
Algae blooms formed as a result, which can kill fish and other wildlife, and have also been exacerbated due to low water levels during this summer’s heatwave.
Restrictions on planning permission to tackle high levels of phosphates have also prevented or restricted some new housing developments.
Steps the council can either take, or promote, will be outlined to councillors, who are being asked to endorse the plan.
They include joining the Severn Estuary Partnership to work with other local authorities, supporting the Living Levels partnership that aims to re-connect people with the Gwent Levels and preserve the historic landscape, and supporting research projects.
The council will also work with Natural Resources Wales to reinstate the Caldicot sea wall as a defence against tidal flooding and consider the feasibility of a National Marine Park for the Severn Estuary.
Council planning policies will also be reviewed for their impact on the Usk and Wye while the council says it will “play a more active role in the Wye Nutrient Management Board in order to ensure the Lower Wye phosphate issues are addressed”.
It will also continue to be involved in various other groups and work with neighbouring authorities and agencies as well as Welsh Water and lobby on the issue.
Other steps to improve the marine environment include education campaigns and litter picking initiatives
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