WALES’ ageing combined sewerage system needs to be replaced urgently to prevent further damaging sewage discharges, according to the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb MP. Crabb has called for greater urgency from regulators and water companies to formulate a plan to replace the system to prevent sewage discharges. In a letter to the Minister for Climate Change at the Welsh Government, Crabb draws attention to evidence heard by the Committee over two evidence sessions with campaigners, water companies, and Ofwat.
The key issues of concern include the lack of accurate monitoring of the volume of discharges and the frequency of outflows, the number of ‘unpermitted’ sewage discharges, and the low number of prosecutions in Wales to enforce better water quality. The Committee believes that there is a lack of a clear and timely plan to make improvements and reduce the quantity of sewage being discharged.
Crabb stated that Wales’ sewerage system is old and under enormous pressure from increased rainfall, and it needs to be made fit for purpose. He added that the Committee is not convinced that there is an urgent plan to make crucial infrastructure upgrades. Crabb has written to the Climate Change Minister at the Welsh Government to understand what steps are being taken to address these problems and protect Welsh rivers and coasts.
The sewage discharges have been a cause for concern for campaigners who have highlighted the need for action to protect the environment and human health. According to a report in The Guardian, in 2019, Welsh Water discharged sewage into Welsh rivers 400,000 times, and in 2020, there were 1,000 reported sewage spills. The report also highlighted the risk of the discharges to public health, stating that some of the spills contained harmful bacteria and viruses that could cause illness.
The Welsh government has stated that it is committed to improving water quality and is working with water companies to reduce the number of sewage discharges. The government has also launched a consultation on its Clean Seas Wales campaign, which aims to protect the Welsh coastline and reduce marine pollution.