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North Wales Politics

Steam locomotive ‘Palmerston’ which will be visiting the Vale of Rheidol Railway this year

David Black, CEO Ofwat, Llyr Gruffydd MS, Ceri Davies, Executive Director of Evidence, Policy and Permitting NRW, Gwenllian Roberts – Director for Wales, Ofwat

AN MS has called on regulators to ”restore public trust” following illegal sewage spillages in North Wales’ waterways.
Llyr Gruffydd, who represents the region in the Senedd, said its rivers “remain under threat” and that the increase in pollution incidents “is deeply disappointing and must not become the norm.”

The Plaid Cymru politician, who is his party’s Shadow Minister for Rural affairs, as well as the chair of the Senedd’s Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure, Committee, recently met with representatives from water regulator Ofwat and environment agency Natural Resources Wales.

The environmental performance of water companies and how they are regulated came under fresh scrutiny following revelations that a number of Welsh Water’s wastewater treatment plants have been operating in breach of their permits for years.

A report by mathematician and former University College London Professor Peter Hammond, of the campaign group Windrush Against
Sewage Pollution, analysed the performance of 11 sewage treatment works in Wales from 2018 to 2023.
Of these treatment works, Prof Hammond found that 10 had been releasing untreated sewage in breach of their permits.
Four of the sites where these spillages have been happening are in North Wales.
The report found that there were 374 breaches Abererch, while there were 14 breaches in Caernarfon, which resulted in 65 million litres being spilled.
In Llanrwst there 82 breaches which resulted 168 million litres being spilled, while in Ruthin there 106 which accounted for 182 million litres in spillages.

While a plant is allowed to discharge untreated sewage under certain conditions in order to ensure it does not become overwhelmed during heavy rain, it isn’t allowed to release any before it reaches the overflow level stipulated on its permit.

Llŷr Gruffydd MS said: “Our rivers are an essential part of our natural heritage. They provide habitats for a range of wildlife and plants, are popular for recreational activities, and help bring people closer to nature. But they remain under threat.

“Pollution from a variety of sources, including water company assets, means less than only half of Wales’ waterbodies are at good or better ecological status.

“The pressures facing water companies are well-known: ageing infrastructure, population growth and the effects of climate change.

“Nonetheless, water companies have statutory duties to fulfil, regulatory requirements to adhere to, and environmental commitments to meet. NRW and Ofwat are central to ensuring water companies do just that, through fair and proportionate regulation and enforcement.

“Thanks to media reports about sewage spills, the environmental performance of water companies has never been under so much scrutiny from the public and politicians.

“So, too, has NRW and Ofwat’s regulatory and enforcement response. Increasing public awareness and understanding of the approach to regulation and enforcement and how it is used to improve environmental outcomes is essential to restore public trust and confidence.

“The Committee I chair recently held an inquiry into the performance of Dŵr Cymru. This was following reports from NRW and Ofwat about a decline in Dŵr Cymru’s environmental performance.

“The decline in performance for 2022, primarily due to an increase in pollution incidents and a decrease in self-reporting of those incidents, is deeply disappointing and must not become the norm.”