Authorities leave Teifi exposed to repeat major pollution
The anaerobic digestor facility responsible for a major pollution on the Teifi in 2016 is still operating without planning permission, six years after the incident.
On 17 December 2016, approximately 44,000 gallons of pollutant leaked into the Teifi from an anaerobic digestion plant at Pencefn Dryscol near Tregaron, killing an estimated 18,000 fish on a five-mile stretch of this highly protected river. Six months later, the operator of the facility submitted an application to Ceredigion County Council for retrospective planning to retain the plant.
Despite being in receipt of the application for over 5½ years, Ceredigion County Council have yet to make a decision on whether to grant full planning permission for the industrial site.
Separately, Natural Resources Wales informed the site owner on 30 June 2017 that it would not agree to the plant operating until it had planning permission. The plant owner advised them on 5 March 2018 that the facility was not operational yet a site visit carried out by officers a year later found it was. The regulator subsequently issued an environmental permit for the facility, despite raising “significant” concerns about pollution risks from the ‘proposed development’ with Ceredigion County Council on at least three occasions since 2017, according to documents published on the Council’s website.
Fish Legal objected to the planning application on behalf of angler members on the Afon Teifi and highlighted the case to Welsh Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths SM. The Minister responded in 2019 by saying the delay and lack of planning enforcement was a matter for Ceredigion County Council.
Penelope Gane, Head of Practice at Fish Legal, said:
“Ceredigion County Council and Natural Resources Wales are the authorities responsible for protecting the River Teifi Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Yet between them, there are huge gaps in terms of planning, regulation and enforcement of this anaerobic digestion facility, leaving the river vulnerable to further pollution.”
“Not only is there a continuing threat to wildlife from another catastrophic failure at this site but the impact of spreading of digestate in the catchment of a SAC river which is currently failing its phosphate targets has not been properly considered. In short, the oversight of this anaerobic digestor plant by the ‘competent authorities’ is a mess.”