At least four lorries per day filled with sewage are being transported from Dolgellau to Tywyn causing pollution and anger, an ex-councillor has claimed.
Former Gwynedd councillor for the town Mike Stevens has called for answers from Welsh Water after the ‘stinking’ vehicles first appeared on the roads earlier this year – adding also to pre-existing congestion issues.
He says the sewage is then supposedly being treated at a plant in Tywyn before it is discharged into the ocean.
Though there has been an improvement with sewage leaks into the sea from Tywyn - down by 33 overflows to 116 last year, and down by 91 to 1,148 hours - this is still equivalent to about one-and-a-half months of spew when combined.
Mr Stevens says between 10 and 15 tankers have been driven through the town on most days for the last six months – but the firm says it is no more than four.
He said he spoke with the water firm’s area supervisor Paul Williams who said it was a temporary measure as there was a problem with the Dolgellau plant. But in an update this month he warned that it could still continue for six months yet.
Mr Stevens told the Cambrian News he suspects it is because raw sewage can no longer be dumped in the Mawddach river without provoking anger from nearby residents – or breaching environmental regulations. Dwr Cymru said it was down only to ‘essential maintenance works’.
“Welsh Water also claims the sewage is treated at the Tywyn plant before being discharged into Cardigan Bay,” he added.
“However, given their appalling record of pollution, it cannot be confirmed raw sewage is not being discharged.”
Controversy surrounds the practices of the UK’s private water companies which are legally entitled to release sewage to relieve pressure on the system, mostly during periods of extreme weather.
The private water sector refers to such discharges as combined storm overflows (CSOs) and warns of flooding and damage to the system if they are prevented. But opponents say companies have neglected an antiquated network of pipes which increases the need for the divisive practice.
“Sadly, the water companies abuse this and regularly discharge raw sewage and, although they are fined for too many discharges, these fines now seem built into their business plan as a running cost,” he continued.
“I also asked if raw sewage from Dolgellau was being taken anywhere else in Gwynedd for treatment, and Mr Williams said no.
“As Chairman of Tywyn and District Chamber of Tourism and Commerce (CTC), I am very concerned and appalled at this.
“Our beach is our biggest asset and the reason thousands of people come to Tywyn, it is vital to the economy of the town.
“Any pollution of our beach and coastal waters is not acceptable but to have raw sewage from another town dumped on us is totally unacceptable.
“Why can't they take Dolgellau’s sewage to Porthmadog or Bala or somewhere in the north of Gwynedd?
“It’s always the same. If there is any crap to dole out, Tywyn gets it.
“It is strange that when it comes to waste recycling centres, Dolgellau and Bala, both smaller than Tywyn, have full-size recycling centres - yet Tywyn doesn’t and is the largest town in Gwynedd without a recycling centre.”
A Welsh Water spokesperson said: “We are currently carrying out essential maintenance work at our Dolgellau wastewater treatment works. While this work is being done, we have reduced capacity to treat wastewater at our Dolgellau site.
“This means that we are using tankers to carry some of the wastewater from Dolgellau to our larger Tywyn treatment works where there is plenty of room to clean and treat the water before it is safely returned to the environment.
“It is standard practice to treat wastewater from other sites at larger nearby treatment works while maintenance or upgrades are being carried out. Using a larger site such as Tywyn, which can treat additional flows while remaining compliant, will ensure we protect the environment while the works takes place.
“The work on site in Dolgellau is expected to be completed by October, but we are doing everything we can to finish sooner than that if possible. We are keeping our website dwrcymru.com/InYourArea updated with information about the work.
“We currently have on average around 4 loads a day travelling to Tywyn from Dolgellau and we understand that having more traffic than usual in your area can be inconvenient and we would like to thank local residents for bearing with us while we carry out this essential work.”