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).
Adjustments for Ceredigion’s Safe Zones are planned for Easter
SAFE ZONES were originally implemented in July 2020. The key purpose of the Safe Zones and other measures introduced by Ceredigion County Council is to help protect our community’s health by reducing the risk of Covid infections.
Across Wales, infection rates remain higher than they were last summer, so measures are still needed to reduce risks as Wales wide restrictions are relaxed, soon to be followed by the easing of UK restrictions. With more people expected to holiday in Wales and Ceredigion we need to have measures in place that help people visit shops and services in our towns safely.
Proposed relaxations to current restrictions will have an impact. From 27 March self-catering accommodation is likely to re-open and people will be able to travel freely within Wales. Then from the 12 April more retail units are likely to be allowed to open, self-catering will open in England and the travel restrictions between England and Wales are likely to change with students also expected to resume face to face teaching.
Feedback was sought on the Safe Zones that were introduced in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay. The feedback was gratefully received and has been taken into account when putting plans in place for Easter.
New measures will be introduced for the Easter holiday period from week beginning the 29 March. The changes reflect the feedback received. These changes will be monitored and reviewed for the summer.
The arrangements for Ceredigion safe zones for Easter are as follows:
- Aberaeron – to retain the existing layout with some changes to parking provision in the town, including additional Blue Badge provision.
- Aberystwyth – to resume daily road closures but make changes that allows access to Bridge Street and Queen Street; to make Pier Street one way; to allow access for blue badge holders to Eastgate; to reverse traffic direction in Baker Street and Corporation Street; to provide more blue badge parking in Baker Street; to allow access from the promenade along Terrace Road and Bath Street; and to allow access into Cambrian Place.
- Borth – to create some pedestrian passing places and erect more signage.
- Cardigan – to close off parking bays in the High Street to allow more space for pedestrians. More extensive measures are planned for the summer that involves new road layouts.
- New Quay – to reintroduce closures and make minor changes.
The daily road closures in Aberystwyth will be between 11am and 5pm Monday to Saturday. In New Quay they will be between 12noon and 5pm every day. The daily road closure in both towns will end at 5pm on 17 April.
The public need to remain cautious and vigilant whilst the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out. We thank residents and visitors for following the guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone in Ceredigion.
More information can be seen on the Council’s Safe Zones web page.
Wales is moving in the right direction to ease coronavirus restrictions
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.
Enhanced Covid-19 testing introduced for care homes
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.
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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