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River benefits after polluter pays

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A MAJOR river pollution incident in Mid Wales has cost a company £40,000.

Pencefn Feeds Ltd, near Tregaron has paid the sum after a detailed investigation by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) into the incident in December 2016.

Around 18,000 fish are thought to have been killed on a five-mile stretch of the Teifi when approximately 44,000 gallons of pollutant leaked from an anaerobic digestion plant.

The West Wales Rivers Trust will receive £15,000 to restore fish habitat in the area.

And a further £5,000 will go to the Countryside Alliance Foundation to fund education activities about fish and the local environment for children in the Tregaron area.

The payments are consistent with a potential fine and have been made as an “enforcement undertaking”. This means that the money directly benefits the local environment.
The final £20,000 is being paid to recover all investigation and legal costs relating to the case.

Ann Weedy, Mid Wales operations manager for Natural Resources Wales, said: “This has been a very complex and time-consuming investigation and we are pleased to see the financial penalty being used directly to repair some of the damage caused by this incident.

“This will make the Teifi a better place for fish and other wildlife by fencing river banks and developing riverside vegetation.

“We hope these payments serve as a reminder to businesses that we will take enforcement action if they pollute Wales’ environment and don’t operate responsibly.”

As well as investigating the incident and overseeing the clean-up operation, NRW also investigated the roles of all companies involved in the incident.

However, the sub-contractor mainly responsible for the incident, Hallmark Power Ltd, went into liquidation so no prosecution could be taken against them. And the main contractor, ComBigaS UK, also no longer exists, so no action could be taken against them either.

ComBigaS Denmark had links to the project but has no legal basis in the UK and is therefore not covered by UK law.

Site owner, Pencefn Feeds Ltd, had raised concerns with the companies about the quality of work, but this had not been acted upon. This would have provided significant mitigation if the matter had gone to court, so NRW concluded that accepting an enforcement undertaking was the best option in this case.

Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith OBE, Director of Afonydd Cymru, the umbrella body that represents Wales’ six Rivers Trusts commented: “This was a tragic case that was bad for the river Teifi and its fisheries.

“Nonetheless, we commend the use of an Enforcement Undertaking to resolve the regulatory aspect of the case as some funding will now be put towards restoration within the catchment itself.
“The resolution of longer term damage remains a separate issue.”

Rachel Evans, Countryside Alliance Director for Wales, said: “Fishing for Schools is always grateful to receive funding to help us reach out to more young people who benefit from our unique approach to education through angling.

“Funding coming from a pollution incident and resultant settlement whilst sad, will highlight the ever-present need to align conservation and the environment with our school work.

“Tregaron has always been a bedrock of angling within the Welsh community and heritage. We fully intend to enhance and extend that rich legacy by putting this award to good use.”

NRW has been monitoring the Teifi since the incident and confirms there has been minimal effect on invertebrates.

Salmon fry have been found in the affected area, so it is likely that at least some eggs did survive.

However, juvenile and adult salmon were killed. Large numbers of brown trout were also killed, and this species will take some time to recover.

Ann Weedy continued: “The Teifi is one of the most iconic and important recreational and net fisheries in Wales and an internationally important Special Area of Conservation for endangered fish such as lampreys, salmon and bullhead.

“We all need to work together to do all we can to restore the river and reduce the number of pollution incidents damaging our precious environment in Wales.”
NRW has carried out more than 100 pollution prevention visits to farms in Ceredigion and the Teifi catchment in the past year and these have helped reduce the risk of pollution from farm slurry.

It has also inspected the other three anaerobic digestion plants in Ceredigion to ensure that their pollution prevention measures are suitable.

Pencefn Feeds Ltd has now applied for an environmental permit so they can continue to operate (see additional information for more details).

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Wales is moving in the right direction to ease coronavirus restrictions

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THE NUMBER of coronavirus patients being treated in Welsh hospitals is at the lowest for three months, Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething has revealed at a briefing today (Feb 8).

The R number is below one, it was confirmed – the most recent estimate from SAGE is that R is between 0.7 and 0.9 in Wales.

He also confirmed that the latest figures show the testing positivity rate has fallen in Wales below 10%, which means Wales could soon be moving is from alert level 4 to alert level 3.

Mr Gething said: “There are some encouraging signs that the number of people needing hospital treatment for coronavirus is starting to fall.

“The number of people with confirmed Covid in our hospitals is at the lowest since 8 November and we have also seen a reduction in the number of people with coronavirus needing intensive care.

“Overall, we are seeing cases of coronavirus fall. Monday’s figures show there are around 115 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people in Wales.

“But this varies widely across Wales.

In Wrexham, rates are above 220 cases per 100,000 people, although this is falling. In Ceredigion, the rate has risen over the last seven days to 56 cases per 100,000 people. “The positivity rate – this is the percentage of tests, which return a positive result every day – is also falling. It now stands at just below 10%.

“This is still high, but it’s a lot lower than the very high rates we were seeing before Christmas, when we had overall rates of more than 650 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of more than 25%.”

BAM communities hesitant to get vaccines

Concerns have been growing in recent weeks about an apparent hesitancy from some people in black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) communities to have the Covid-19 vaccine. Which is why Mr Gething also told the briefing that work was being done to counter some of the misinformation about the vaccine, which is common among some groups and communities.

He said that Welsh Government was closely monitoring vaccine uptake to make sure there are no barriers to take-up.

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Enhanced Covid-19 testing introduced for care homes

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Further Covid-19 testing for care home staff is beginning this week to help identify infectious individuals sooner and manage outbreaks more effectively, the Health Minister has announced.

The enhanced testing programme will involve the twice weekly testing of asymptomatic care home staff using rapid lateral flow test devices.

This is in addition to the PCR tests, which are sent to a laboratory, currently undertaken by care home staff as part of a package of measures for preventing transmission of Covid-19 in care homes and protecting residents and staff which has been operating since June 2020.

A £3 million funding package has been agreed to support additional testing in care homes.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

“The protection of the most vulnerable people in our communities has been a priority during the Covid-19 virus outbreak.

“Care home staff, local authorities and health protection teams continue to work tirelessly to prevent the introduction and onward transmission of Covid-19 in our care homes.

“While we are making good progress with the roll-out of our vaccination programme, testing remains pivotal in our response to the pandemic to help identify infectious individuals within care homes sooner and manage outbreaks more effectively.”

Local health protection teams will also be able to consider the introduction of daily testing for a period of 10 days in care homes where there is an outbreak. This enhanced testing is in line with the ‘test to safeguard’ priority described in the refreshed Welsh Government Testing Strategy.

Lateral flow tests produce results within 20 to 30 minutes allowing for positive individuals to be identified and isolated much more quickly than through the current testing process.

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Police and Crime Commissioner to broadcast live conversation with Health Board

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ON WEDNESDAY evening, November 25, Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn will broadcast a live conversation with Hywel Dda University Health Board Chief Executive, Steve Moore on social media.

Steve Moore will be PCC Llywelyn’s fourth guest on his fortnightly Facebook live broadcast series, Commissioner in Conversation following on from previous broadcasts with Dyfed-Powys Chief Constable Mark Collins, Superintendent Ifan Charles, and Deputy Chief Constable Claire Parmenter.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, said; “It will be a privilege for me to have Steve Moore as a guest on my next Commissioner in Conversation broadcast.  This year has been such a challenging year for our Health Board, and the NHS across the UK, with their staff being at the frontline, working hard to fight the pandemic, and saving lives on the way.

“This broadcast will be an opportunity for me to have an informal conversation with Steve to hear about his personal experiences of recent months, how the Health Board has dealt with all the challenges and the pressure, and to celebrate the fantastic work of his staff.

“We will not only concentrate on the COVID-19 pandemic, we will also discuss some partnership working between the NHS and the Police, how we often support each other, and as usual, I will try to get to know a little more about the person behind the name, his background and his journey to reach the position of Chief Executive at Hywel Dda University Health Board.”

Steve was appointed as Chief Executive at Hywel Dda UHB in 2014 following a career within both the public and private sectors. Like the rest of the UK, the NHS here in Dyfed Powys has seen significant challenges during the past few years but also significant advancements in care and outcomes for patients.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive Hywel Dda Health Board said: “The NHS is an institution that most of us hold very dear as it supports us from cradle to grave and can have a huge impact on our lives.

“I’m really looking forward to my conversation with the Commissioner as so many of our challenges, and indeed opportunities, are shared; and I’m particularly looking forward to receiving questions or input from social media users as well. COVID-19 has made us all look to new ways of connecting and I hope this provides an opportunity for people to find out more and for us to listen to the views of our communities and individuals.”

PCC Dafydd Llywelyn added; “This, again, will be a live broadcast, so please join us on our Facebook page, and feel free to leave your comments and questions, and as usual, we will try to reply best we can during the conversation.

Commissioner in Conversation with Steve Moore will be broadcasted live on www.facebook.com/DPOPCC  at 8pm on November 25, on the eve of Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn’s November virtual Community Engagement Day, where he will be spending the day meeting with several partners and organisations as well as community representatives.

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