Brecon and Radnorshire politicians have reacted to news that Welsh Water has been downgraded over sewage pollution for the second year running.
Welsh Water caused 89 sewage pollution incidents in 2022, five of which were classed as “having a high or significant impact”.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) downgraded Wales’s largest water company to a two-star (requires improvement) rating following a further decline in environmental performance outlined in its annual review.
Following a disappointing performance in 2021, the report reveals that pollution incidents rose by 7 per cent in 2022, with those having a high or significant impact rising from three to five.
The company also failed to make improvements to the number of incidents self-reported to NRW, falling to 65 per cent, a decrease of 7 per cent from 2021. Water companies are expected to self-report incidents to NRW before others do. Without a rapid response, the impact of pollution can escalate and the opportunity for mitigation measures can be lost.
In response, NRW’s Chief Executive Clare Pillman has called for a ‘step change in performance that is so clearly needed and called for by us and the public.’
Both the MP and MS for Brecon and Radnorshire have reacted to the news, calling the statistics ‘abysmal’ and ‘disappointing’.
Fay Jones MP said: “It is extremely disappointing that Welsh Water’s Environmental Assessment Rating has been reduced to two stars. The rise in pollution incidents of a serious nature and drop in the number of self- reported incidents are particularly concerning given the importance of dealing with these events quickly and the crying need for more transparency in the sector.
“Residents expect quite rightly to be able to enjoy Brecon and Radnorshire’s beautiful rivers without fear of sewage derived illnesses. This development only strengthens my view that we need to take radical action to tackle this problem, in particular a cross-border and agency taskforce.”
James Evans MS said: “It comes as no surprise after the abysmal statistics on sewage dumping in Wales, that Dwr Cymru have been downgraded for the second year running by Natural Resources Wales, for failing to clean up our waterways.
“We can only hope that this motivates Dwr Cymru and Labour to finally begin to fix the mess that they have created. With over 600,000 hours of sewage being dumped into Welsh waters, action should have come much sooner.
“I submitted a topical question in the Senedd today and rather than address how she would clean up Dwr Cymru’s shocking record, the Labour Minister was overly focussed on them being a private company. Waterways are a devolved power in Wales, Labour have the power to fine and regulate the company to hold them to account, why don’t they use these devolved powers and clean up Welsh Waters?”
In a statement Welsh Water said: “We are working tirelessly to deliver the improvements required in challenging circumstances especially as we experience more severe weather events and extreme variation in the climate.
“These changes are having a significant and increasing impact on our water and wastewater infrastructure and challenging how we deliver our services.
“While we recorded five serious pollution incidents for 2022, compared with three in 2021, we have the second lowest level of total pollution incidents in the water industry, with the number of pollution incidents having halved over the past 10 years.
“We are sorry, however, for any environmental harm that we have caused.”
The company said it planned to invest an extra £100m to improve river quality by 2025, as part of an £840m improvement plan.