NFU Cymru demands investigation into river pollution claims

The Welsh government and Natural Resources Wales have been urged to investigate claims that untreated sewage has been dumped in the River Usk.

NFU Cymru has written to rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths to raise concerns about a BBC Panorama investigation which aired on Monday (12 April).

See also: How to protect watercourses from pollution and grants to help

The union has called for a full investigation to assure farmers that “agriculture has not been held accountable for the pollution caused from other sources, particularly sewage treatment works”.

Panorama said data from its environment information requests showed three of Welsh Water’s treatment works had breached their permits.

However the not-for-profit company told the programme it had not operated illegally and that it worked hard to comply with all regulations.

Range of factors

NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “NFU Cymru has long highlighted that there are a range of factors influencing water quality in Wales.

“The evidence is clear that a sole focus on agriculture through the introduction of regulatory measures to tackle agricultural pollution will not deliver Water Framework Directive objectives, yet we have observed a false and flawed narrative developing in recent years that frames agriculture as ‘the problem’ with respect to water quality issues in Wales. 

“In light of the evidence uncovered by the Panorama programme, NFU Cymru is seeking confirmation on what actions are being taken by government and the regulator to stop these illegal practices.

“We also ask what investigations are being undertaken to understand if and where else within Wales similar illegal practices are or have taken place.”

NFU Cymru said it would launch a legal challenge against the Welsh government’s new rules to control agricultural pollution, having previously raised concerns about the lawfulness of the decision.

The new measures to address agricultural pollution in Wales, under the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021, are effective from 1 April and will be phased in over the next three and a half years.

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