Fish Legal demands urgent review of environmental permits for sewage discharges in Wales

20th October 2023

In a letter to the Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales on 19 October, Fish Legal called for an urgent review of all discharge permits for storm sewage overflows in Wales to determine whether they are compliant with the law. The letter comes at a time when analysis by Professor Peter Hammond shows illegally spilling of untreated sewage by Welsh Water at dozens of its treatment works for years in full knowledge of the environmental regulator in Wales.

Fish Legal has been advising angling clubs on the River Tawe in South Wales in connection with frequent discharges of untreated sewage from Trebanos Wastewater Treatment Works, one of the sites investigated by Professor Hammond.  Anglers on the Tawe have witnessed frequent spills from the works over many years, with published data showing that it discharged untreated sewage for over 3231 hours on 182 occasions in 2021 and over 3676 on 270 occasions in 2020.

Internal Natural Resources Wales emails, disclosed under a freedom of information request made by Fish Legal in 2022, revealed that the regulator considered serving a statutory notice on Welsh Water to demonstrate that it was “not being passive” but that angling clubs on the river would have to “just live with” the fact that planned improvements were unlikely to be completed until 2030. 

Justin Neal, Fish Legal Solicitor said,

“It clear that Welsh Water are habitually failing to treat sewage coming into their works across the country. We want Natural Resources Wales to explain why they think existing permits they have issued to the water company to control sewage overflows are compliant with the law. They also need to explain why they think it is acceptable to kick the problem of frequency sewage spills down the road to the next investment round which is years away, when they have the means of forcing compliance at their fingertips.”

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