After 20 years of campaigning by Fish Legal, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) finally agrees that sewage dumped by Dwr Cymru / Welsh Water into Llyn Padarn at Llanberis in North Wales caused “environmental damage” to the lake. NRW have now served a legal notice on Welsh Water confirming they are responsible for reversing this damage.
The once pristine lake – close to the iconic Snowdon mountain and popular with tourists – has suffered on-and-off from pollution for many years – culminating in the “algal bloom” of 2009 when the lake became toxic, went bright green and all swimming was banned.
In early 2012, frustrated by regulator inaction to stop the sewage and protect the genetically unique strain of arctic char found in the lake, Fish Legal took the novel approach of formally “notifying” NRW under the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations 2009. The notice asserted damage was being caused to fish and that the water quality had deteriorated.
Following notification and 17 months of ‘investigation’, the NRW confirmed on 11th July 2013 that treated and untreated sewage pumped into the lake had led to algal blooms and a breach of water quality requirements under European Law.
The Agency has now given Welsh Water 3 months to submit proposals to reverse the damage caused by its historic sewage inputs.
Fish Legal represents the Seiont, Gwyrfai and Llyfni Anglers who hold the fishing rights at Llyn Padarn and fear that without decisive action its rare fish will be lost forever.
Although NRW wants Welsh Water’s plans to restore the damage it has already caused, there are no required steps to “prevent” further environmental damage. There are also huge gaps in what anglers and local people have been told, and of significant concern is Welsh Water’s use of “combined sewer overflows” (or ‘CSOs’) that discharge untreated sewage directly into the lake.
The actual quantity of sewage discharged out of these CSOs, which operate (in NRW’s words from the decision document) “on a regular basis”, is still not disclosed. CSOs are supposed to be an emergency safety valve for the sewerage system so that – for example – toilets do not back up in extreme weather conditions. They are not there to release sewage into Llyn Padarn whenever it rains, or because Welsh Water does not upgrade inadequate sewage treatment infrastructure.
Fish Legal is pressing the regulator for more answers and further action on these points.
William Rundle, Fish Legal Solicitor said:
“It comes as no surprise to us that Welsh Water has been found responsible for causing environmental damage to Llyn Padarn. A 2011 report by the regulator monitoring water and sewage company performance identified them as one of the worst performers, specifically citing them for 'poor total sewage pollution and permit compliance performance' ”.
"Whilst we welcome this step towards putting right past damage we want to see an end to all untreated sewage discharges. We will continue putting pressure on both the regulator and the water company to make sure they come clean about what they dump in the lake, and so full preventative measures are put in place .”