Continuing to care for our environment despite Covid 19
While you’re out and about in your local area taking your daily exercise you are likely to still see our staff and our vehicles out and about undertaking essential work in our rivers, our forests and on our reserves.
Like all organisations, many of our teams have adapted to working at home, but there are some essential parts of our work that need us to be out in the field – responding to serious pollution incidents, managing the felling of diseased trees and keeping people safe from flooding.
Meet some of the team members who are still out protecting the environment during these uncertain and worrying times.
Luke Burton, Environment Officer, Newport, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent Environment Team
“As an Environment Officer I’m responsible for regulating environmental permits, undertaking pollution prevention initiatives and responding to incidents. These responsibilities require me to be out and about, but following measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19 I’ve been working from home.
“Using phone calls, monitoring data and photographs sent to us I’ve continued to check and assess compliance with permits remotely. I also continue to investigate incidents using a range of alternative intelligence gathering methods. However, managing incidents while working from home isn’t always possible.
“As a Category 1 Emergency Responder we have a duty to respond to some 9,000 reported environmental incidents every year. If the incident can’t be managed remotely and it’s safe to do so, I must attend.
“Because of this, you might see me working outside and in the company of some of our partner organisations. In these instances, to keep members of the public and our staff safe, I’ll be maintaining careful social distancing and hygiene precautions, such as two metre social distancing, regular handwashing and avoiding enclosed spaces.”
Michael Cresswell, Mid Wales Forestry Operations Team Leader
“The team that I work with helps to manage and look after some of the forests in Mid Wales on behalf of Welsh Government. The coronavirus has affected us all, both personally and professionally.
“A lot of the of work that NRW does provides an essential service for the people of Wales which is why you may still see some of our teams out and about.
“Our forests are providing timber for a wide range of important products including wooden pallets, packaging and paper that are helping to support the food and health care industries. It also supplies wood chip and wood pellets to heat hospitals, care homes and people's homes.
“The health and safety of people who live locally to the forests and our contractors and teams that carry out the work is really important to us.
“We’re adhering to social distancing procedures and only travel if it is necessary. We wash our hands regularly to protect ourselves and others and are in close contact with Public Health Wales. All of our sites are subject to strict checks to ensure that the work is being carried out in line with environmental and health and safety standards.”
Callum Stone, Senior Environment Officer, Dwyfor Meirionnydd Environment Team
“Like most organisations our entire way of working has been turned upside down over the last month or so. Our usual work space has been swapped for spare bedrooms or dining rooms and coffee tables are now doubling up as desks!
“One of the biggest changes for me is having to shield due to living with someone who is considered to be at risk if they were to catch Covid-19. This means that my role in incident response is no longer working to directly investigate incidents, but instead supporting my colleagues who are out on the ground.
“Officers that you may see on the ground responding to an incident don’t just rely on their own knowledge. Support staff also help to provide valuable information regarding hostile sites where pollution may have occurred. They also provide information for sensitive receptors such as designated sites or drinking water abstractions, making sure staff have all the equipment they need for their safety and to collect evidence.
“Officers that attend incidents are no longer travelling together in vehicles in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. Although this doesn’t sound like much of a change, it doesn’t give officers the opportunity to have vital discussions to further plan their response whilst driving.
“Many of the incidents we deal with involve substances such as slurry and sewage which can carry all sorts of viruses that might cause disease. Regular disinfection of our vehicles and equipment, as well as using barriers such as gloves and ensuring we don’t do anything to risk spreading these around has always come as a second nature to us!”
PC Mathew Andrew, on secondment with NRW from the Gwent Police Rural Crime Team
“I’ve been working with my colleagues in the Gwent Police Rural Crime Team to think of new ways to support NRW during this unusual time.
“The team have employed drone technology to assist with waste investigations, which has allowed photographic evidence to be obtained in a socially distant manner on common land. Officers launched the aircraft to address reports of suspected waste offending in south east Wales.
“This ‘eye in the sky’ captures high resolution photographs that allow waste officers to see what’s going on in remote locations or locations where officers would usually have to double-staff to investigate. From the images captured waste officers and the police have been able to collate evidence against reports and intelligence.
“We have also been assisting NRW with riverbank patrols, having caught and reported a male for fishing with no license on the River Rhymney. Another male is being prosecuted under Schedule one of the theft act for fishing on private waters. And 10 Elver fishermen were recently checked on night patrols.
“Maps and hotspots of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) have been produced and distributed to officers in both Gwent and South Wales Police areas where the anti-social use of bikes is an issue.
“The use of drones is still a new technology to the police and a lot of consideration and planning as to their use is required. Being able to use them for evidence gathering and to respond to evolving incidents has been key in helping NRW continue its regulation and enforcement work during this time.”
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen an increase in the number of incidents reported to our incident hotline, and we will continue to do our best to respond during these difficult times.
For information on the types of incidents we deal with visit our Report it page on our website.