With rising public concern about sewage discharges into rivers and coastal waters, the Welsh Affairs Committee in Parliament has brought together some of the leading water quality campaigners to hear about the situation across Wales.
Witnesses included Angela Jones - known as the "Wild Woman of the Wye", Jon Khoo - Chair of Surfers Against Sewage, and Gail Davies-Walsh the CEO of Afonydd Cmyru. All three voiced strong concerns about the lack of action being taken to protect Welsh waters from sewage and agricultural pollution.
Preseli MP, Stephen Crabb, who chairs the committee led the evidence session by asking the witnesses to describe the extent of the problems facing Welsh waters. Following the recent arguments in Parliament about new plans in England to clamp down on sewage discharges, the MP asked why there has been so little political debate in Wales about water quality.
In 2020, there were 105,751 sewage spills into waterways across Wales recorded by event duration monitors (EDMs). Spills from storm overflows pose risks to river and public health due to the introduction of pollutants and bacteria. In Wales, these issues are the responsibility of Welsh Government.
All three of the witnesses drew attention to recent pollution incidents in Pembrokeshire waters and elsewhere in Wales. The discussion with MPs focused on the performance of Welsh Water in reducing sewage discharges and Natural Resources Wales, an arm of Welsh Government, in enforcing current water quality rules. Mr Crabb drew attention to inaccuracies in the way Welsh Water has counted sewage discharges near Newport in north Pembrokeshire.
Following the session, Mr Crabb said:
“Pollution of rivers and coastal waters has become a massive issue of concern for the public, in Wales and all across the UK. This has particular importance for us in Pembrokeshire. Public opinion is only going to get stronger on this, and rightly so.”
“At Westminster legislation has now been passed that places strong duties on water companies to get their act together on reducing sewage discharges. In Wales, there isn't a clear plan right now. We really need Welsh Government to step up and take action to protect our waters."
Next month, the Welsh Affairs Committee will hear evidence from Natural Resources Wales, Welsh Water and the regulator Ofwat.