RESIDENTS spent days cleaning up a section of a Cardiff park after it became littered with sanitary towels and toilet wipes.
The banks of the River Taff at Hailey Park, Llandaff North, and the trees that line became visibly strewn with plastic, sanitary towels, toilet wipes and other waste in recent weeks as water levels subsided.
Groups like the Llandaff North Residents’ Association, Friends of Hailey Park and YGC Rebel Mams joined residents in helping to clean the river bank over the weekend and on Monday February 13.
One of the Rebel Mams, Pam French, said: “It is absolutely filthy at the minute. It is probably as bad as it was during the really bad floods in 2020.”
Welsh Water said debris can enter the river and get caught on trees during periods of heavy rain. When the river level drops, the level of debris becomes more apparent.
However, Pam said she thinks a lot of the debris including the sanitary towels and wet wipes has also entered the river as a result of sewage discharge.
“There are other items, like plastic, but they probably come from multiple sources whereas the thing that strikes us every time we are there is every single wet wipe, every single sanitary towel, every single panty liner comes from one place and that is Dwr Cymru,” said Pam.
“It is absolutely tragic. One of the big attractions to living in this part of Cardiff is that you have got the Taff Trail, which is absolutely amazing.
“We have got a corridor that runs right through Cardiff and all the way up through the Valleys and that is full of wildlife which should be supported by that river.
“I talk to older people in the neighbourhood and they all say that they remember a few decades ago when the river ran black with all of the industrial pollution.
“They said it took so much time to get it done from that and there was a point in time when that river was clean and now the thought that our not for profit water utility are dumping raw untreated sewage and all of the waste that comes with that into that river deliberately is absolutely criminal.”
Welsh Water says that releasing wastewater, a combination of rainwater and sewage, into watercourses is an essential way of reducing the risk of flooding.
After there has been heavy rainfall, more water can enter sewage pipes than they are able to cope with.
Release points known as Combined Storm Overflows (CSOs) relieve this pressure by releasing the wastewater into rivers and the sea.
One resident, Stephanie Wilkins, said: “I’ve lived in Llandaff North for 27 years and am used to seeing the river on regular walks and cycle commutes.
“The litter, including detritus from our sewerage systems, is the worst I’ve seen in that time.
“We value living next to the river and it’s used for kayaking, fishing, swimming, paddling, rowing, as well as just being a pleasant place to sit and watch, so to see it trashed like this makes me feel both sad and angry.”
Ms Wilkins is also the chair of the Llandaff North Residents’ Association, which is currently fighting plans to build a sewage pumping station at Hailey Park.
Cardiff Council approved the application for the sewage station in September 2022. However, campaigners are seeking to challenge this decision.
Welsh Water recently announced that they will have to delay construction work on the site until September due to “a number of outstanding issues” and the close proximity of the bird nesting season.
On the River Taff waste at Hailey Park, a Welsh Water spokesperson said: “There are a number of sources of debris which can enter a river especially during periods of heavy rain. When levels in the river then drop after the rain has subsided the debris can become more apparent.
“We always investigate any reports of debris which people think may have come from one of our assets and where it is safe to do so will undertake the necessary clean up.
“Our team is already aware of the reports from this area of the Taff and has plans to undertake a clean up.”
The spokesperson added: “We always remind our customers not to dispose of any materials other than toilet roll down the toilet. Nappies, cotton buds and wet wipes can end up blocking our system. Similarly, pouring fat, oil and grease down sinks can cause blockages.
“We always encourage customers to follow this advice through our Let’s Stop the Block campaign and we thank customers for supporting us on this.”