Two Welsh coastal areas have been identified as some of the most highly-polluted spots in the UK due to sewage contamination.
The latest figures illustrate the dismal state of many bodies of water due to contamination from water firms.
Two north Welsh locations have made it into the top ten – Rhyl and Morfa Nefyn – while the Menai Strait has also secured a spot in the top twenty. The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales have revealed that sewage was pumped into waterways for 3.4 million hours in only one year, which can be translated to 388 years.
This issue has been brought to light by highlighting that the River Severn, which divides England and Wales, was suffering from severe pollution due to the 28,000 hours of sewage pumped into it by Severn Trent Water over 2,656 times.
Other rivers listed in the top 20 include River Teifi, River Usk, River Wye, River Tawe and and River Taf.
Welsh Water, also known as Dŵr Cymru, said it was “unsurprising” that Wales had greater numbers of spills than other countries, going on to blame storm overflows and rainfall.
“Welsh Water has monitors on 99% of our storm overflows, more than any other water company, and given Wales also receives more rainfall than England this results in these storm overflows operating more often.
“It is therefore unsurprising that we currently record larger numbers of spills than others.”
Storm overflows act as safety valves, releasing extra sewage into rivers, lakes or the ocean when weather conditions cause excess rainfall. This stops properties from becoming flooded and saves them from sewage backing up into their streets and homes during extreme weather events.
The water company concluded to state that it was continuing to “protect the environment” and “assess the impact of storm overflows” to work to improve the problem.
“We are investing over £900m to protect the environment between 2020 and 2025. With 44% of Welsh rivers achieving good ecological status, compared to 16% in England, we are playing our part by investing to prevent any water body in Wales failing good ecological status by 2030 as a result of our wastewater treatment works.”
Undertones singer and fisherman Feargal Sharkey had something to say about the figures outlined on ‘Top of the Poops’ – tweeting:“What on earth is going on in Wales, Welsh Water with an utterly despicable record of six of the most polluted rivers. Get a grip.”
In a statement, Natural Resources Wales explained it was “concerned about the impact of storm discharges on our water quality”, and added a taskforce has since been set up to help reduce the impact.
“The taskforce brings together Welsh Government, NRW, Ofwat, Dŵr Cymru and Hafren Dyfrdwy, with independent advice from Afonydd Cymru and the Consumer Council for Water. Collaboratively, the Taskforce has published a series of action plans to gather greater evidence on the impact of storm overflows on our rivers and the sea to reduce the impacts they cause, to improve regulation and to educate the public on sewer misuse.”
It added that water companies have a “responsibility to the environment” and need to start taking the issue “seriously”: “We will continue to challenge the water companies to make sure storm overflows are properly controlled. We will investigate any cases of non-compliance and where appropriate take the required enforcement action.”