Posted: Mon 24th Apr 2023

No time to lose’ to replace Wales’ sewerage system to prevent sewage discharges

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Apr 24th, 2023

The Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb MP, has called for urgent action from regulators and water companies to replace Wales’ ageing combined sewerage system to prevent further damaging sewage discharges into rivers and coastal waters.

In a letter to the Minister for Climate Change at the Welsh Government, Mr Crabb highlighted evidence gathered by the Committee during two evidence sessions with campaigners, water companies, and Ofwat.

Key issues raised include the lack of accurate monitoring of discharge volumes and outflow frequency, the occurrence of unpermitted sewage discharges, and the low number of prosecutions in Wales to enforce better water quality.

The Committee is concerned about the absence of a clear and timely plan to improve the sewage infrastructure and reduce the quantity of sewage being discharged into the environment.

Mr Crabb stated that due to increased media attention and efforts by campaigners, the public is more aware of the number of sewage discharge events and their negative impact on human health and wildlife.

He emphasised that any nation committed to protecting natural ecosystems should minimize such events.

With Wales’ sewerage system ageing and facing pressure from increased rainfall, Mr Crabb expressed the Committee’s concern that no urgent plan exists for crucial infrastructure upgrades.

He has written to the Climate Change Minister to inquire about steps being taken to address these problems and protect Welsh rivers and coasts.

In his letter to Wales’ Climate Change Minister Julie James, Mr Crabb detailed the Committee’s concerns over the accuracy of monitoring equipment and data reliability, the lack of monitoring of sewage discharge volumes in addition to outflow frequency, the frequency of “unpermitted” sewage discharges from storm overflows, and the low number of prosecutions in Wales to enforce water quality regulations.

The letter also mentions the apparent lack of urgency on the part of regulators and water companies to tackle these challenges.

Despite data collection on sewage discharges beginning in 2013, the response of regulators and water companies appears to involve further research into the impact of discharges up to 2027.

Mr Crabb emphasises that with the significant work required to replace Wales’s combined sewerage system, there is no time to lose, and regulators and companies need to have a clear long-term plan stretching over the medium term.

The general view of the Committee is that there is a lack of a clear and timely plan to address the issues highlighted, including the sheer quantity of sewage being discharged.

Mr Crabb has requested the Welsh Government to provide information on the steps being taken to address this set of problems, with a deadline for a reply set for 15 May.

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