Posted: Thu 23rd Nov 2023

Natural Resources Wales’ chief: Prosecuting water firms not solution

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Nov 23rd, 2023

The ongoing concern about Wales’ water quality took a new turn during a Commons’ Welsh Affairs Committee investigation, as Natural Resources Wales’ chief executive Clare Pillman stated that prosecuting water companies might not lead to environmental betterment.

Ms Pillman, speaking to the Welsh Affairs Committee in Westminster, emphasised that while legal action has its place, it may not always be the most effective tool in achieving environmental improvement.

Her comments come amidst growing concerns about water pollution in Wales, including evidence from environmental investigator Professor Peter Hammond, who highlighted illegal sewage spills at a treatment plant in Cardigan.

The chief executive referred to a recent case in North Wales, where a court-imposed fine on a water company did not resolve the underlying environmental issue.

“Going to court is, in a way, the point at which regulation has failed,” she said.

Ms Pillman advocates for continuous efforts towards environmental improvement rather than solely relying on legal proceedings.

David Black, chief executive of Ofwat, the regulator for England and Wales, also weighed in, acknowledging the importance of the power to issue fines while emphasising the need for companies to rectify their wrongdoings.

Welsh Conservative Shadow Climate Change Minister, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, has said that water companies like Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water should be held accountable for their actions.

She pointed out that sewage spills in Welsh waters are a significant issue, contributing to 25% of all discharges in Wales and England.

Ms Finch-Saunders believes that without the threat of fines or prosecution, companies may lack the incentive to stop harmful practices.

She expressed concern over the potential impact on Wales’ natural beauty and the need for more robust enforcement by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

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