River pollution: Western Cleddau described as an "eco disaster."

Simon Walter

In light of warnings that pollution is posing an "ecological disaster" for a river in Pembrokeshire, activists are calling for action.

A thick residue on the riverbank, which activists claim is from a First Milk discharge pipe, can be seen in the video of colored liquid being released into the Western Cleddau from two discharge pipes.

The regulator Natural Resources Wales (NRW) stated that it was looking into the matter.

According to First Milk, "discolored discharge" was released briefly but stayed within NRW's guidelines.

One of the two outfall pipes' operator, the company, claimed that earlier this month, a discharge from its treatment facility at Merlin's Bridge entered the water.

Campaigners contest the assertion that this was a singular incident.

Following the introduction of an "unauthorized dairy-type product" into the sewer network, Welsh Water reported that its waste treatment facility at Merlin's Bridge "temporarily experienced operational issues.". Despite looking into the source, it stated that the issue was now settled.

Simon Walters has spent his entire life close to the Western Cleddau, but in recent weeks, he began keeping track of discharges as a result of growing anxiety.

First Milk discharge pipe into the Western Cleddau at a spot known as Fortune's Frolic
At a location known as Fortune's Frolic, a First Milk discharge pipe empties into the Western Cleddau.

One of the outfall pipes at the Fortune's Frolic location connects to the Haverfordwest First Milk cheese creamery. The other pipe is attached to a Welsh Water waste water treatment facility close by.

Mr. Walters asserted that the river was in danger.

I've witnessed its decimation over the years, he claimed.

"The number of fish has drastically decreased. The bird kingdom has vanished. The sewage pipe's [discharge] can be very dark, grey, and erratic in volume.

Brown effluent has been flowing continuously through the First Milk pipe for two, three, or four hours at a time for months. ".

According to Mr. Walters, the riverbanks were "coated" with a "red, orangey mousse" that turned black as it dried from the discharges from the First Milk pipe.

First Milk claimed that it experienced a "minor issue" with its treatment facility that caused "some discolored discharge" to be released into the river for "a brief period of time." This issue was "rapidly addressed," according to First Milk.

Simon Walters
"The number of fish has drastically decreased. Simon Walters, a local, claims that the area's bird population has vanished.

According to the company, neither the incident nor the discharge consents set by NRW "represented a significant risk to the environment.".

Gail Davies-Walsh, chief executive of Afonydd Cymru, the umbrella organization for Wales' river trusts, stated that she agreed with activists that the Western Cleddau was in danger of catastrophe and urged NRW to review permits for discharges into the river.

She also asserted that the First Milk location had evidence of longer-standing issues.

It was initially discovered in 2005–2006 because of nutrient failures, she said.

Measures were taken to stop them. Recent evidence of violations of some of the conditions on their permits, which span several years, is glaring. ".

A Welsh Water discharge pipe into the Western Cleddau
This Welsh Water outfall pipe from the waste water treatment facility at Merlin's Bridge empties directly into the Western Cleddau.

In response, First Milk stated that it had recently conducted a "full operational review" of its treatment works and had appointed a "new operator to run and manage the facility" alongside the business. Additionally, it disclosed that it was doubling down on its treatment center investment.

NRW should "enforce stricter regulation," according to Ms. Davies-Walsh.

The number of sea trout has drastically decreased, according to Stephen Esmond, secretary of the Pembrokeshire Anglers Association.

"My concerns about how much stuff is leaving here were brought up a few weeks ago. I believe the fish are coming up here and tasting this disgusting material rather than moving up the river.

Stephen Esmond, secretary of the Pembrokeshire Anglers Association
Stephen Esmond, secretary of the Pembrokeshire Anglers Association, urges NRW to visit this area more frequently to monitor it.

"It's been about a month since we've seen any fresh fish arrive. This mixture is stronger because it isn't as dilute, which turns the fish off. We have only seen mullet where there should be shoals and shoals of bass. Although there is no bass, mullet like this type of environment. ".

In addition to calling for better river enforcement by NRW, Mr. Esmond claimed that club membership was down due to declining fish stocks.

Get NRW here more frequently to keep an eye on it, he advised. "Get the nearby locals to come here, please. Three to four hours may pass between heavy discharges. This place is lifeless. ".

Scientist from Hook Ric Cooper has been observing the river's water quality while paddling and paddle boarding on it.

Mr. Cooper stated, "I've been requesting analytical data on the river from NRW and other agencies.

"It's pretty obvious that this river has much higher nitrogen levels than it should, or nitrate levels. There is too much phosphorus and nitrogen in this river, which causes hypernutrification.

The amount of oxygen available to fish and other invertebrates in the mud decreases due to an overgrowth of algae that scavenges nutrients and oxygen, with all the negative consequences that follows. ".

According to a report for NRW published in January 2021, the Western Cleddau was falling short of its phosphorus targets "in every water body" that was evaluated.

To lower phosphorus levels in the river, it was suggested that a special project be started on the Cleddau rivers, with a focus on the Western Cleddau in particular.

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