THE SPILLAGE of kerosene into the Nant Pibwr was of a higher volume than first thought; however, the environmental impact of the pollution is now thought to have been confirmed.
That is what Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Lesley Griffiths told AMs in a statement made on the evening of Tuesday (Oct 11).
The statement, given in response to a request by Plaid Cymru AM Adam Price, told concerned AMs that it was now believed that 140,000 litres of kerosene had leaked from the damaged section of pipe before it had been isolated and shut off.
NO COMMENT ON CAUSE
However, the Cabinet Secretary revealed that the cause, extent and location of the damage remained uncertain and that further pain would be heaped on those travelling from and to West Wales by the complete closure of the A48 in both directions while attempts were made to fix the pipeline.
Ms Griffiths stressed to AMs that a report in a newspaper that the water supply had been contaminated was a mistake which had been corrected by the offending publication that day (Oct 11).
In response to questions from local AM Adam Price, the Cabinet Secretary refused to be drawn on possible causes of the leak and whether compensation would be offered to local residents and farmers as a result of the pollution.
However, when asked whether she was content with the speed of the response, Ms Griffiths affirmed that she was and told AMs that NRW were first notified of a possible leak by Valero at 10.46am on October 4 and that the leak was subsequently confirmed by the company at 11am. It was at that point that NRW despatched its own officers to the team, followed by the co-ordination of an emergency response.
TRAFFIC DELA YS A CONCERN
Telling her Labour colleague that it had taken her 45 minutes to simply cross Carmarthen the preceding Sunday, Regional AM Joyce Watson expressed concern that the closure of the A48 over four days from October 14 to October 17 (inclusive) would cause more than the ‘inconvenience’ the Cabinet Secretary had suggested.
Ms Watson told Lesley Griffiths that she understood that of four sites, three had been cleared while a fourth was still being decontaminated. Joyce Watson went on to ask for reassurance that the pollution arising from the event would be monitored over the long term.
Responding, the Cabinet Secretary disclosed that as of Tuesday (Oct 11), 100,000 litres of the 100,000 litres spilled had been recovered by specialist contractors engaged by Valero and that NRW were carrying out daily checks of the watercourse. However, she acknowledged that there was the potential for long term contamination and that Valero were liaising with NRW to investigate and mitigate the effects of land contamination. She reassured AMs that long-term monitoring would take place.
NO ANSWER ON CONTINGENCY PLANS
Angela Burns, AM for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, asked what contingency plans the Welsh Government had put in place if the pipeline repairs could not be carried out in the four days set aside for the work. The Conservatives’ health spokesperson explained that her understanding of the position was that the pipe was 12 metres below the surface and that if contractors could not reach it from the side, she had been told that the only option was to go straight through the main carriageway and substrate to get to it.
In addition, as the condition of the pipe and location of the leak were uncertain, as had been disclosed in a letter from Ms Griffiths on October 7, Mrs Burns expressed concern as to whether works would and could be completed by the forthcoming half-term holiday beginning on October 21.
In relation to that point, the comfort that Ms Griffiths could deliver was vanishingly small. Repeating that the weekend had been selected in order to avoid disruption, she disclosed that as HSE had sealed off the damaged pipe it could not be removed and that an additional pipe would be laid alongside the existing conduit and connected to it. She continued: “This work has to be done and I hope it can be done in the four days.”
GRIFFITHS ‘REASSURED’ ON POTENTIAL FOR REPEAT
Simon Thomas wanted to know whether there was a link between this incident and the work already taking place on the pipeline which had led the closure of the eastbound carriageway of the A48.
Pointing out that the pipeline ran through much of Mid and West Wales, Plaid’s regional AM expressed concern about the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future in the many isolated areas through which it passed.
Once more, the Cabinet Secretary stressed that the causes of the incident would be matters for the NRW and HSE investigations. On the broader issue raised by Simon Thomas, Ms Griffiths responded that, having discussed pipeline integrity, she had been reassured by NRW on the point. She concluded by stating that the pipeline’s condition – which serves Heathrow, the Midlands and Manchester – would be the subject of long-term review with Natural Resources Wales.
NO IMPACT ON TYWI ‘AT MOMENT’
A statement from NRW said: “Although the local impact to ecology and fish population is significant, the quick response to contain the spill has resulted in no impact downstream on the River Tywi at the moment.”
Aneurin Cox, South Wales Operational Resources Manager for NRW, said: “Our rivers provide a home to rich, diverse and valuable species of plants and animals, so it’s important to deal with pollution as quickly as possible.
“As the work continues to recover the oil, we’ll continue to monitor the site and focus on finding out how this happened and will be advising on how to remediate the site.
“This incident has also had a major impact on the local community. We and our partners will continue to speak to local residents, farmers and anglers to keep them updated with the latest situation.”
Welsh Water has confirmed that there is no impact on their drinking water supplies.
Key partners (Dyfed-Powys Police, South Wales Trunk Road Agency and Carmarthenshire County Council Highways) continue to review the traffic management plans in place.
While the diversion already set up for the closure of the eastbound carriageway of the A48 presents congestion at peak travel times, and adding to the journey times of people using this route, it continues to remain a very necessary action to allow the specialist contractors to continue working on the site.
Chief Inspector Peter Roderick, of the Specialist Operations Department of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “A further update on the traffic management plans required to effectively enable the specialist contractors to complete their work at the affected site will be released later in the week.”
COORDINATED APPROACH ESSENTIAL
Liberal Democrat William Powell told The Herald: “This is a very serious incident indeed and clearly Valero has acknowledged this. Every effort must now be made to channel resources to the site to stem the contamination and to safeguard the riverine and terrestrial environment, as well as the wildlife affected.”
The former AM continued: “Minimising the potential risk to public health must be the overriding priority now. In this context, I would urge all residents to heed the NRW’s safety guidance.”
Mr Powell stressed the potential impact beyond the environmental one: “Clearly we need to learn the lessons from this in terms of the consequences of a closure of the A48, not just on adjacent communities, but also on the wider economy, given its importance as an arterial route.
“From the Cabinet level within Welsh Government, we need to see a coordinated approach, involving NRW, the County Council and Community Councils in the area. It is also imperative to provide as open and transparent a communications channel as possible, to ensure public safety, but also to minimise impacts on biodiversity locally and also on the wider economy.”
OIL SPILL ‘A DOUBLE BLOW’
Welsh Conservatives’ Angela Burns AM (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) and Paul Davies AM (Preseli Pembrokeshire) issued a joint-statement in response to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs‘ statement today on the oil spill: “The oil spill, which has now resulted in the closure of both lanes of the A48, is a double-blow to the people of West Wales, cutting off both of its most vital economic arteries.
“The Welsh Government’s response to this mess has, at best, been lethargic.
“They accepted a roads programme that saw the project being dragged on for six weeks with no 24-hour working.
“We would welcome a speedy investigation from the Health and Safety Executive and Natural Resources Wales to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong, and who is responsible.
“Whoever is at fault needs to make the appropriate reparations to put right the cost to the environment and local economy.
“When the spill is finally plugged then the situation can best be remedied by introducing 24-hour works on getting the roads up and running again.
“It is incredibly vital that we keep the west Wales economy going and that lessons are learnt.”
‘THERE MUST BE A FULL INVESTIGATION’
Outside the Chamber, Adam Price said: “The Welsh Government’s statement suggested the leak has been stopped, but this is simply not correct. Whilst no oil is now able to enter the affected section of the pipeline, the isolated section is 25km long with the residual oil still coming out.
“Following her visit, I implore the minister to establish a full investigation into the cause and effects of this disaster, not least in how we measure the damage and costs to local landowners, residents and businesses who will have to cope with the consequences.”
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards added: “News that the dual carriageway – the major route to and from West Wales – will close completely next week could have significant ramifications for the West Wales economy and place a huge burden on residents along the diversion route.
“I am concerned by the Cabinet Secretary’s statement which says the scale of the pipeline fracture is still being determined, yet goes on to say the road would have to be closed in order to fix it.
“If the dual carriageway has to close in its entirety we want that decision to be based on the necessity to curtail further environmental damage, and not to ease the pain on the operator’s pockets.”
‘SWIFT ACTION MINIMISED IMPACT’
A Welsh Government spokesperson told The Herald: “The Cabinet Secretary visited the site of the spill on Saturday and continues to receive regular updates. Natural Resources Wales’ swift action has undoubtedly minimised the impact of this significant incident. Monitoring is continuing and is not showing any risks to health or public water supply. The pipeline operator, Valero, informs us in excess of 100,000 litres of kerosene has been recovered so far.
“In order to replace the fractured pipeline, the A48 will need to be closed in both directions from the evening of October 14 to early Monday (Oct 17). We acknowledge this may inconvenience people and businesses in West Wales but the immediate priority is ensuring public safety and minimising the impact of the spill on local wildlife.
“Once the incident is concluded, Natural Resources Wales, as regulator, will investigate the cause of the breach and take appropriate action under its powers. It would not be appropriate to comment ahead of this work.”
Boris Johnson expected to resign as Prime Minister today
THE PRIME MINISTER, Boris Johnson is expected to tender his resignation today, according to sources close to Number 10.
Less than a month on from surviving a leadership challenge, the PM’s premiership will come to an end after senior ministers were among those to quit the government in protest at Downing Street’s handling of a series of recent scandals.
The latest of these being Mr Johnson promoting Chris Pincher to the role of deputy chief whip in February despite being told of a sexual misconduct complaint against the Tamworth MP in 2019.
On Tuesday, the PM apologised for allowing this job move to take place – but this did not stop the resignations of both his health secretary Sajid Javid and chancellor Rishi Sunak minutes later.
By Thursday morning, more than 50 Conservative MPs had resigned from their government roles.
Commenting on the news that the Prime Minister will be resigning today as Conservative Party Leader, Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, said: “I’ve always said it was essential for the Prime Minister to hold the confidence of our country, party and parliament. Clearly, that is no longer the case.
“Boris Johnson’s legacy will always be that he ended the deadlock and got Brexit done, delivering on the will of the British people.
“As well as securing a historic victory in 2019, Boris ensured our return to freedom out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Regrettably, it has now become very difficult for him to deliver on the mandate he secured.
“As a friend and supporter of the Prime Minister, I recognise his achievements over the last three years. It now falls to the Conservative Party to select a new leader to deliver on our manifesto commitments for the remainder of this parliament.
“I wish him, Carrie and the rest of his family all the best for the future and thank him for his service to our country.”
Reacting to the resignation of the Prime Minister Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:
“Finally this whole sorry and undignified saga has come to an end. It was always abundantly clear that Boris Johnson was unfit to be Prime Minister and those that backed him to the hilt have a responsibility for the mess and destruction he and his brand of populism has had on our country.
“The Welsh public won’t forgive so many Welsh Conservative MPs for propping up Boris Johnson for so long against various scandals while at the same time ordinary families were struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
“Johnson or no Johnson, for many former Conservative voters the party they once knew is beyond redemption and will not be coming back.”
Werndale Hospital recognised for outstanding patient care in national award
STAFF at Werndale Hospital near Carmarthen have been recognised for the quality of their patient care.
The prestigious ‘Private Hospital Group of the Year’ award is presented to an organisation that has shown excellence in its delivery of care, commitment to the community and innovation within healthcare.
Werndale Hospital was also recognised for their initiatives to support staff in their career progression and wellbeing.
The latest statistics show, 98% of patients at Werndale Hospital were satisfied with their overall level of care, 98% of patients would recommend their care to family and friends, and 98% of patients rated the nursing staff as excellent or very good.
In addition, independent analysis of Circle hospitals’ hip and knee procedure outcomes of health improvement shows that Circle scored 8.4 versus an independent sector average of 7.8 in the hip category, and a score of 15.4 versus an independent sector average of 13.9 in the knee category.
The award presented to Circle Health Group, owners of Werndale Hospital, in London in June, also noted the extraordinary contribution the teams at the hospital had made to the community.
In 2021 alone, Werndale Hospital partnered with Air Ambulance Wales and raised £1,205 to support the charity’s work in the community.
In addition to the charitable work, Werndale Hospital was recognised for it’s commitment to support staff through a series of wellbeing initiatives and career development opportunities. The judges were particularly impressed with the launch of the ‘Be Heard’ survey at the hospital.
The survey looks to empower staff to feedback on everything from the working environment at the hospital through to their own career ambitions. Building directly on the feedback from this survey, the ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign was launched which supported staff to work towards specific qualifications from nursing degrees with partnered universities through to bespoke management programmes and MBA qualifications.
As a direct result of this support for staff at what is a challenging time for healthcare workers, Werndale Hospital and Circle Heath Group were recognised as being a Top 20 Best Large Company to work for.
At the heart of Werndale Hospital’s approach to treating patients is a commitment to the community they serve.
Paolo Pieri, CEO of Circle Health Group, said: “The award is a testament to what an amazing year 2021 was for Werndale Hospital with considerable investment into the facilities and services on offer to patients in west Wales. I couldn’t be prouder of what our staff and doctors have achieved.”
Aberglasney Gardens delighted to win 2022 Trip advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
ABERGLASNEY Gardens is thrilled to have been recognised by Tripadvisor as a 2022 Travellers’ Choice Award winner for being in the top 10% of attractions worldwide.
The Award recognises businesses that consistently deliver great service with the Gardens being rated ‘Excellent’ by 342 visitors.
The award celebrates businesses that have received great traveller reviews from around the globe on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year has been, Aberglasney stood out by consistently delivering positive experiences to visitors.
Aberglasney’s Director of Operations Jim Stribling said: “We are delighted to have once again won an award from Tripadvisor. It is fantastic recognition for the team’s hard work and dedication. To rank among the top ten percent of those listed on Trip Advisor as one of the best places to visit is outstanding.
“We are grateful to all those who take the time to leave us a review after visiting. It is no cliché when I say all the team, be it in the gift shop, the gardeners, the tearooms and the administrative team, all take the reviews on board to help make a visit to Aberglasney the best possible experience for everyone.”
Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel guidance platform, helps hundreds of millions of people each month become better travellers, from planning, to booking, to taking a trip. Travelers across the globe use the Tripadvisor site and app to discover where to stay, what to do and where to eat based on guidance from those who have been there before.
With more than 988 million reviews and opinions of nearly eight million businesses, travellers turn to Tripadvisor to find deals on accommodation, book experiences, reserve tables at restaurants and discover great places nearby.
As a travel guidance company available in 43 markets and 22 languages, Tripadvisor makes planning easy no matter the trip type.
“Congratulations to the 2022 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Winners,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “The Travellers’ Choice Awards recognise the best in tourism and hospitality, according to those who matter most: your guests.
“Ranking among the Travellers’ Choice winners is always tough – but never more so than this year as we emerge from the pandemic. Whether it’s using new technology, implementing safety measures, or hiring outstanding staff, I’m impressed by the steps you’ve taken to meet travellers’ new demands. You’ve adapted brilliantly in the face of adversity.”
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