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MP seeks solution to sewage problem

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On the beach: Nia Griffith MP meeting with Robert Griffiths

On the beach: Nia Griffith MP meeting with Robert Griffiths

NIA GRIFFITH MP was at Llanelli beach on Wednesday (September 2) meeting the cockle gatherers to discuss the spillage of tonnes of raw sewage into the Loughor Estuary from the Rhossog plant, which occurred on Thursday (Aug 27).

Speaking about the reported mass mortalities of cockles over the last ten years she told The Herald, “We do not know the exact cause of the cockle deaths, and we certainly need further investigation by Welsh Government and NRW on this, but we do know that Llanelli’s sewerage system is still struggling to cope with all the rain and waste water that is now going through it. To protect homes from flooding, sewage is let out into the estuary threatening marine life, polluting our beaches and breaking EU law.”

When asked about the roles Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales play in protecting the cocklers Nia Griffith said, “I appreciate that NRW has made investment to reduce flooding from rivers such as the River Dulais in Pwll and the River Dafen, and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water is spending millions on the Rainscape scheme to take surface water out of the system, and we are grateful for this investment. But this work has being carried out to sort out existing surface water problems, and reduce sewage spillages: it was never designed to cope with the vast run off from the huge amount of new development in the area.

“We have a very special landscape here – right round the coast from Pembrey in the West to Llangennech in the East – steep slopes, a narrow coastal plain and then the sea, with a strong tidal flow which surges up rivers and waterways on that coastal plain. You could visualise it like a top hat – steep sides, a narrow flat brim, which is the coastal plain and then the sea. This means that there is extremely little room for manoeuvre.”

Given the County Council’s large scale home building plans we asked Nia Griffith MP if she believed new large housing developments were contributing to the problems with the sewage system.

She replied, “Of course people are attracted to build on our coastal slopes by the spectacular views of the Gower, but whether it is Mountain Road in Pembrey, Bryn Gwdig in Burry Port, Genwen in Bynea or Talyclun in Llangennech, we need to take into account the increased flood risk to householders living in the communities below and the increase in sewage overflows into the estuary, as the only way to prevent it backing up into people’s homes.

“No-one wants to see a halt to all development, but the County Council absolutely must insist and monitor all new developments to ensure that they not only keep all the surface water from their acres of new roofs and roadways out of the sewage system, but that they contribute to taking even more surface water out, and improving our sewage infrastructure. Otherwise all the work Welsh Water is doing will be in vain. I want to see people’s homes protected from flooding, a thriving cockle industry and clean beaches, and limiting and monitoring new development is one way to do this.”

We asked Nia about the consequences of this recent spillage, which lasted more than four hours.

She told us: “It is a serious issue because the cocklers depend on being able to pick good clean cockles here. It is worrying that after ten years and the first major mass cockle mortality back in 2005 we still haven’t got any answers.”

The cockle industry faced disaster in 2005 after thousands of tonnes of cockles were left to rot leaving the town’s residents to complain of a ‘foul smell’, which was traced to the rotting cockles in the Burry Inlet.

Nia Griffith went on, “Any spillage is not helpful to them and us trying to attract tourists to the area and to people going down onto the beach. We are in trouble already with the EU with the sheer number of spills that are allowed out into the estuary and that is a very serious issue for the Welsh Government at the moment and something we should be addressing urgently.”

Welsh Water has claimed that the water in the estuary is cleaner than it has ever been. We asked Nia Griffith MP what could be done to decrease the number of raw sewage spillages into the estuary.

She said: “The problem is that we live in a very wet climate. Heavy rainfall happens frequently. In order to keep flooding out of people’s homes they just leave sewage out into the estuary. We know Welsh water is trying to take all the surface water out of that flow but as soon as they are doing that we are seeing more developments. We need the County Council to be absolutely strict with developers and make sure they not only take out the surface water they create but they should take out more than they create. We have these spills far too frequently out into this estuary. We can’t expect investments to go ahead and continue with this large scale development.”

On the question of what can be done to help the cocklers, whose trade is dying as a result of cockle deaths, the Llanelli MP said: “We have to stop making it worse. From the minute that the authorities knew they were in trouble with the EU on this they should have been taking a really cautious attitude. They should have been making it clear to the EU that they were making every conceivable effort to try to reduce the problem.

“I am concerned there is complacency and I am concerned that they have not been acting quickly enough to try to put things right. Quite clearly this case has been going on for some time and the EU has asked repeatedly for things to be put right. A greater emphasis needs to be put on not making the problem any worse.

She concluded: “The worry is that if we don’t put the investment in now we could be fined. More needs to be done to It is a very serious issue and it is very often the cocklers who have the greatest expertise and they should be listened to as well and there should be a proper dialogue between them and people like NRW so that they can work together. I am concerned that there has not been sufficient investment and investigation to find out what is affecting the cockle. It has been a thriving industry in the past and we would like to see it so again. At the moment with the cockles not growing to their full size, it is a worry.”

Robert Griffiths has been gathering cockles along the Loughour and Burry estuaries for longer than he cares to remember. His skin is tanned and leathery after long exposure to the sun rain and wind day after day as he toils in the sand and mud to extract the jewel of the estuary, the humble cockle.

Like most of cocklers, the shellfish beds provide Robert’s bread and butter. He battles with the tides and the elements in short window periods to gather as many cockles as possible, up to a few tonnes per day in order to make a living.

During the last ten years Robert has sent the numbers and the size of the cockles decrease. He said, “These are the only beds in the world as far as I know where people are allowed to gather cockles as small as 10mm. The fact is that if we were not allowed to gather them at this size, we would be out of business.”

Back in 2005 Phil Coates, director of the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee reduced the size that cockle could be legally gathered from the usual 19mm to 17.5mm in order to alleviate the large numbers of cockles left to die. This further reduction appears to be aimed at preserving the very existence of the cockle industry.

Robert Griffiths said, “I don’t want to put people out of work and if the factory can take 8mm cockles, then fine. But what happens if we have a total wipe out of the stock?”

Robert pointed out that the amount of sewage, which is passed forward along the line from Burryport to Bynea is set at 880 litres per second. He said, “Anything over 880 litres per second gets dumped out into the estuary via the sewage outfalls.”

He estimates that there can be 15,000 litres of sewage per second going through the line. He went on. “We are talking about thousands of tonnes of raw sewage being spilled. When it gets to Bynea it is processed and they clean what they can but the overflow joins the pipe and goes to the outfall out to the estuary.”

“It is the same for Gowerton. Cockles eat organic matter but it is the other stuff that is in it that is killing them.

“If raw sewage comes out in the volume it has done for the last ten years we won’t be able to continue for more than another month. Organisms lie dormant in the winter months and get activated when it warms up.” Addressing the issue of water quality, Robert continued: “The water is not the issue as there is no water in the Burry Inlet. The population has increased and none of the plants have been improved to deal with the increase in people. The plants were badly constructed in the first place. Welsh Water are still pursuing the designers of one plant, because it was flawed. “What is the point of doing all that work cleaning the water only for it to join up with the dirty water when it goes out into the estuary? E-coli multiplies so even if there is just one particle of E-Coli to begin with it multiplies.

The sea has to be as clear as gin for the sun’s UV to work at breaking down the bacteria.” Robert told us of his concerns about the testing regimen: “They only test four times a year. Over 700 tides a year and they test four and then only on high tides. Not one person in the Welsh Assembly has done anything about this problem. If I am wrong then why is the European Union taking them to court?

The papers are being processed at the moment. Talking about the reference to the European Court, Robert continued: “Welsh Water are only doing what they are told they are allowed to do by National Resources Wales based on the consents they gave them, which are way below what is acceptable under European Law. I didn’t want to go to the EU to make a complaint, which will cost the taxpayer’s millions of pounds. We have been to a variety of ministers and they have done nothing at all. When they get to court and face a man in a wig they will have to comply.

“If I were supplying false information then I would have been sued. We have only supplied the information we have from FOI requests from Welsh Water and NRW. ”European Law says that the outlet pipes should be at mean low water point but they are at two points almost at the head of the estuary. I have spent ten years of my life fighting this. The Welsh Government will be paying the fines and they will be passed down to Carmarthenshire County Council and that means each and every one of us.”

The case is proceeding in the European Courts of Justice. We asked Welsh Water for a response regarding the sewage spill and the mass die off of cockles. Operations manager Hywel Manley said: “Due to the short duration of the incident and the recent rainfall, in combination with the spring tides, we do not anticipate there will be a noticeable or significant impact within the estuary.

“We are working closely with NRW to measure whether there has been any impact on the local environment and we understand there has been no change to the status of the local shell fishery beds.” NRW said the discharge was reported at 9.45am, and was stopped at 2pm. We also asked whether compensation would be paid to the cocklers for the losses caused by the spillage.

A Welsh Water spokesperson said: “The pumping station failure was caused by a mechanical failure and was restored to full working order within four hours. We work closely with other agencies to manage the impact of our work on the environment and our early investigations indicate that this issue did not adversely impact on the local cockle-beds as there were no change to the status of the local shellfishery beds. We have met with the cockle gatherers in the past and always happy to meet anyone who may have queries in relation to our network or the services we provide.”

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Carmarthenshire Archives’ new building officially opened

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ON MONDAY, November 28, Cllr Rob Evans, Chair of Carmarthenshire County Council, unveiled a specially designed plaque to commemorate the official opening of the brand new Carmarthenshire Archives building.

The official opening was attended by year 6 pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, along with their Headteacher Mr Dylan Evans, who designed the plaque by compiling various artwork and sketches that are housed at the Archives.

Established in 1959, Carmarthenshire Archives is the local authority archive service for the County of Carmarthenshire and the new building is located at St Peter’s Street, Carmarthen. 

The service is home to our extensive collection of historic documents that date from the 13th century to the present day. The collection includes archives, maps, books, photographs, videos and sound recordings. It is the Archives’ mission to preserve and make its documents available for general study and research.

Admission to Carmarthenshire Archives is free and open to anyone who wishes to use the Council’s records. Most of its services are free, but we do charge for some extra services and help.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, Cllr Gareth John commented:

“Congratulations to the pupils of Ysgol Y Dderwen, they have designed an excellent and appropriate plaque that is inspired by the treasure troves of our archives. It was wonderful to welcome them to the official opening so that they can see their work take pride of place at a building that holds great significance to us in Carmarthenshire. 

“This is a brand new and modern building that is fit to keep and protect our county’s most precious historical documents. 

“But of course, these documents are meant to be viewed and studied by school children, students, academics and anybody who has an interest in Carmarthenshire’s rich history; and this excellent facility provides the perfect space for people to come and view these treasures.”

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Llandeilo gas works to begin say Wales & West Utilities

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WALES & West Utilities will shortly begin work to upgrade gas pipes in Llandeilo.

Wales & West Utilities has liaised with Carmarthenshire County Council to plan the work and it has been agreed that work will commence after the town has celebrated the Festival of Senses.

The £123,000 investment scheme, which is essential to keep the gas flowing safely to heat and power local homes and businesses, will begin in New Road on 21 November. This section of work will be complete before Christmas and Wales & West Utilities will return to the town next year to undertake further work in the Crescent Road area. Barring any engineering difficulties, work in the town will be complete by the end of February next year.

Wales & West Utilities Adam Smith is managing this gas pipe upgrade work. He said: “Working with the Council, we have planned this work to accommodate the needs of the town.

“While most of the gas network is underground and out of sight, it plays a central role in the daily lives of people across Llandeilo. Whether it’s heating your home, making the family dinner or having a hot bath, we understand how important it is for your gas supply to be safe and reliable and there when you need it.

“We know that working in areas like this is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to homes and businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“This work is essential to keep the gas flowing to local homes and businesses today, and to make sure the gas network is ready to transport hydrogen and biomethane, so we can all play our part in a green future.”

Our Customer Service Team is ready to take your call if you have any questions about our work. You can contact them on freephone 0800 912 2999.

Alternatively, you can contact us on Twitter @WWUtilities or Facebook.com/WWUtilities.

Wales & West Utilities, the gas emergency and pipeline service, brings energy to 7.5m people across the south west of England and Wales. If you smell gas, or suspect the presence of carbon monoxide, call us on 0800 111 999 straight away, and our engineers will be there to help any time of day or night. Before visiting, we’ll ask you to let us know if you or anyone in your household, is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating. We’ll still come and help you: but our teams will take some additional precautions to keep us all safe.

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Police appeal following theft of items from Home Bargains Crosshands

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OFFICERS from Dyfed Powys Police have confirmed that they are investigating the theft of items, including a Christmas Nutcracker Ornament valued at £129.99, from the Home Bargains store in Crosshands, Carmarthenshire.

The theft occurred at about 12:40pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2022.

Officers have carried out all possible lines of enquiry, and are now appealing for help from the public.

They would like to identify the people in the CCTV image, who may have information that could help the investigation.

Anyone who knows who the people are, or if you believe you are pictured, contact Dyfed-Powys Police.

This can also be done either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk or phoning 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Please quote reference DPP/2006/27/09/2022/02/C

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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