TEN unlawful and unmonitored sewage pipes are still operating without a permit in west Wales, it is believed.
Earlier this year it was revealed 184 of these pipelines leading into Welsh rivers, oceans and waterways are operated by Dwr Cymru – which manages the sewage network in most of the nation.
The figures made national headlines earlier this year after a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary investigation.
Controversy surrounds the practices of the UK’s private water companies which are legally entitled to release sewage to relieve pressure on the system during periods of extreme weather.
The sector refers to such discharges as combined storm overflows (CSOs), and warns of flooding and damage to the system if they are prevented.
But according to a series of Freedom of Information requests, only one application for a permit has currently been submitted to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for any of these drains.
This likely means all of the 10 operating in Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Powys are still being unmonitored and can spew out effluent, sometimes possibly raw and untreated, without consequence.
The unpermitted pipes lead from wastewater treatment works in Llanfihangel-Ar-Arth, Llanuwchllyn, Ffostrasol, Llangybi in Pwllheli and Abersoch. Others are CSOs in Tal-y-Bont, in Drury Lane in Aberaeron, Slaughterhouse in Blaenau Ffestiniog, and Penygroes. It also includes a solar-powered pump near Tre Taliesin near Borth.
Shadow minister for climate change, Janet Finch-Saunders MS, said: “For years, Labour ministers have failed to deal with the issue of pollution in Welsh rivers. It is clear that NRW is not fit for purpose under Labour’s watch. Understaffed and underfunded, this organisation clearly does not have the power required to protect Welsh waterways.”
The Cambrian News revealed that Dwyfor Meirionnydd saw the second most sewage discharges in England and Wales last year – followed closely behind by Ceredigion and Arfon (ranked ninth and 19th respectively for duration of leakage).
A spokesperson from NRW said: “We will continue to challenge the water companies to make sure storm overflows are properly controlled... and investigate any cases of non-compliance.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Tackling storm overflows is one of the many elements that need to be addressed if we are to improve river quality in Wales. We will continue to work with water companies to improve water quality. We receive regular updates from NRW and water companies on the programme of work in place to bring these assets into permit.”
A Welsh Water spokesperson said: "Welsh Water has always taken its responsibility for operating CSOs responsibly and invested more than £1 billion as testament to this over the years. This has delivered real improvements and helped ensure that Wales has over a third of the UKs Blue Flag beaches while only having 15 per cent of the coastline.
"Our commitment to protecting bathing and river water quality can also been seen from the more than £8 million we have invested on installing monitors on our CSOs to record spill numbers. We now have monitors on over 99% of our CSOs which exceeds the coverage of other water companies.
"We recognise however that with environmental legislation tightening and customer expectations changing, more needs to be done. Removing CSOs from our system is not an option but what is in our control is the ability to target investment to CSOs which have the biggest impact so that we can improve their performance. That is why we are investing £936 million to 2025 on further improvements to our network.
"With regards to unpermitted CSOs, we and NRW are aware of these. We have agreed a programme of work with NRW to have these permitted and we are on track with our work in this area."