Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is committed to protecting people and the environment from the effects of pollution.
To do this NRW not only pursues offenders in the traditional way through the courts, it also uses innovative methods to redress the damage caused by pollution incidents.
Actions such as enforcement undertakings and civil sanctions - where companies that have committed offences make a financial contribution to environmental groups - not only benefit the community but also allows NRW to use its resources to pursue other offenders.
Jane Chapman, Principal Solicitor for NRW, explained:
“Our role is to ensure businesses can operate successfully without harming people and the environment, this may involve prosecution but in certain cases it can be in the public interest to look at options other than a court case.
“This approach is an example of NRW fulfilling its key role for the greater good of the wider community.”
Recently two offers of enforcement undertakings from Dwr Cymru Welsh Water (DCWW) were accepted. This resulted in a total contribution of more than £100,000 to various charities after two separate breaches of permit conditions.
Firstly, a breach of permit conditions took place at Ty Gwyn sewage treatment works near Buckley, where a faulty hydrobrake which controls the flow of water to the works, caused raw sewage to discharge into the Foundry Drain, a tributary of the River Alyn over a two year period.
The sewage posed a threat to fish and other forms of aquatic life.
DCWW made a contribution of £40,000 to the Welsh Dee Trust to complete the River Alyn catchment habitat survey work and implement projects to improve the Alyn catchment, £10,000 to the Wrexham and District Fly Fishing Club and £20,000 to the North Wales Wildlife Trust to support habit improvements in Alyn and the Anglesey Fens Living Landscapes Scheme.
And secondly, when aluminium levels from the Alwen Water Treatment Works - a DCWW drinking water treatment works near Corwen - exceeded permit conditions after a fault on an inlet valve allowed sediment build up from a back-up valve to enter the river.
Aluminium in acidic waters increases toxicity to fish and the River Alwen at the point of entry is acidic.
DCWW made a contribution of £27,000 to the Marine Conservation Society to support their Wales-wide ‘Wet Wipes Turn Nasty When You Flush Them’ campaign which will improve the marine environment along the Welsh coast and £5,000 to the Welsh Dee Trust to help with their projects to improve spawning habitat in River Alwen catchment.
In addition DCWW paid £3,488 and £2,692 in costs to NRW.
Huw Evans, Director of the Welsh Dee Trust, said:
“The Welsh Dee Trust welcomes the approach of NRW in relation to enforcement undertakings.
“It is important that the polluter pays to repair and rectify the damage caused and the Welsh Dee Trust feels it is crucial that the money paid remains within the catchment for restorative actions.”
“Using enforcement undertakings saves NRW time and money and frees up our legal resources to pursue and prosecute other environmental offenders.
“Enforcement undertakings can be offered by any party provided a relevant offence has been committed.
“We can only use them for certain offences but they can help us to ensure organisations comply with the law, eliminate any financial gain and get them to carry out their business responsibly.”