In recent days, I have received a huge amount of correspondence regarding the output of sewage from storm overflows by Welsh Water into the Severn Estuary. This has resulted in wastewater discharge off the coast of Porthcawl.
In February, it was revealed that raw sewage has been dumped into Welsh waterways more than 100,000 times in just 12 months. Let me be clear, the amount of sewage discharge by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable.
In Wales, the environment is devolved to the Welsh Government. This means that Welsh Ministers are responsible for regulating water quality and storm overflows in Wales. My colleagues in the Welsh Parliament have called on the Welsh Government to overhaul Wales’ “Victorian” sewer system following an increasing number of storm overflows. As of yet, despite the urgency of the situation we face, no action has been taken.
I believe we must do our utmost to protect our valuable Welsh beaches and coastline, which are among the best in the UK.
The package of measures I voted for under the Environment Act 2021, which apply to England only, created three new duties on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation, publish near real-time information on the operation of storm overflows and to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works.
The Environment Act 2021 also includes a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon, including how storm overflows will be addressed through these plans. I believe the Welsh Government must enact similar legislation to protect our coastline.
Bold steps are required to encourage a system-wide change to how we all handle waste. I have written to the Welsh Government to call for them to follow the lead of the UK Government and act on this issue as a matter of urgency.