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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).

News

The county’s play areas to close

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ALL THOSE who manage Ceredigion Play Areas have been asked to close their play areas as of Monday, 23 March 2020.

This decision doesn’t come lightly as they are wonderful places to enjoy. However, you may have noticed people are still meeting in outdoor parks and communal areas outside. We must protect our communities and strive to ensure that people stay away from places where they can come together, especially children and young people who are not currently attending school. It is also important to note, it is reported that Coronavirus can remain on surfaces, including metals and plastics.

The Council requires all playground owners / managers in Ceredigion to ensure that the community keep away from the play spaces. These include community spaces, parks and skate parks.

If there is a gate or fence around the play area, it will be locked and a poster placed on the entrance. For those areas without a fence or gate, the poster will be put in a suitable place so that the public can understand that it is not safe for them to use the play area at present.

We thank all who are helping to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak responsibly.

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Community

The latest on plastic free Ceredigion

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At its meeting held on 17 March, the Council’s Cabinet received an activity update from the Plastic Free Ceredigion Task and Finish Group, which was set up after full Council approved a motion on 22 February 2018.

Full Council approved the ‘Plastic Free campaigns throughout the County, including Plastic Free Aberporth and Plastic Free Aberystwyth’ motion to ensure that the Council helps to reduce the amount of single use plastics used in our day to day operations.

The motion involved a number of factors including; reducing single-use plastics within Council facilities and offices and encouraging local businesses, organisations, schools and communities to move away from single-use plastics and use sustainable alternatives. Promoting the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics at all Council supported events, supporting beach cleans and any other events which aim to raise awareness of the issues of single-use plastics.

Since 22 February 2018, the Council have removed 5 single-use plastic that were used across the local authority, implemented projects in conjunction with NRW with local primary schools, worked closely with communities throughout Ceredigion and commenced the provision of Water bottle re-fills on request to all visitors to our public facing buildings.

In January 2020, the Schools Service were successful in bidding for funding from the Circular Economy Capital Fund, which allows for the purchasing of milk dispensers which will remove the need for the provision of plastic milk bottles and straws by 1,979 pupils at Foundation and Key Stage 2. This is equivalent to a reduction of 376,010 plastic milk bottles per school year.

Councillor Alun Williams, Member Champion for Sustainability said, “These are initiatives which, together, make a real difference to the amount of single-use plastics going into the waste stream from Council activities. Whilst it’s important that everyone seeks to minimise their use of single-use plastics, it’s particularly important that large organisations like councils take these kinds of actions because they can have a wider effect which, in turn, can lead to industry changing to more sustainable practices. Ceredigion Council is trying to lead the way in showing what’s possible within an organisation.”

This supports one of the Council’s corporate priority of Promoting Environmental and Community Resilience.

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Community

Cabinet decision on former care home still stands

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The Council’s Cabinet met on Tuesday 17 March to discuss the recommendation put forward by the Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 16 March, regarding the future of the former care home, Penparcau.

Following the discussion at Cabinet, it was decided not to support the recommendation put forward by the Committee. The Cabinet’s original decision made on 25 February will now be implemented.

The Committee recommended that Cabinet postpone progressing the sale of the former care home for 6 months, given the current situation regarding coronavirus, and following that period, both the Corporate Resources and Healthier Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committees reconsider the matter of future EMI Nursing in Ceredigion. The recommendation was made after councillors used the Councils’ call in process to review the Cabinet’s decision on 25 February 2020.

Councillor Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet member for Economy and Regeneration. He said, “The Council has actively sought the appropriate re-use of the former care home over a lengthy period of time. The Council initially undertook a procurement exercise to identify a provider between 2015 and 2017 and since 2018 sought to sell the property for a preferred use since. Both approaches have been unsuccessful. After careful consideration, it’s now time to consider alternative options for disposing of this asset and attract investment in the property. The money raised from the sale can then be used towards supporting service providing care elsewhere in the County.

The Council will continue to discuss options with Hywel Dda University Health Board for providing improved EMI provision in the County.”

The Council will liaise with Registered Social Landlords in the hope that a purchase can be agreed within 3 months. This is due to the continued need for affordable housing in the County. If this cannot be achieved, the land will be sold on the open market without identifying any preferred uses.

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