United Utilities (UU) have agreed to pay Merthyr Tydfil Angling Association (MTAA) £25,000 in compensation following a pollution of the River Taf Fechan in Mid Glamorgan. In August 2006, a large quantity of aluminium sulphate entered the river from the Pontsticill Water Treatment Works, which UU operate on behalf of Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water. The pollution turned the water white for at least 5km downstream of the works and caused the deaths of approximately 23,000 fish, including wild brown trout, bullheads, stickleback and pike, as well as wiping out invertebrates, the food source on which many of the fish rely.
The Environment Agency Wales (EAW) successfully brought criminal prosecutions of both UU and Welsh Water in September 2007. Both were fined £16,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,184.80 to EAW.
Although Welsh Water paid £22,000 in April 2007 towards restocking, MTAA asked the Anglers' Conservation Association (ACA) to bring a civil claim on its behalf against UU for loss of amenity. The utility admitted liability and on Tuesday 16th September agreed to compensate the fishing club before the case went to trial.
For six years before the pollution, MTAA had worked hard to improve the habitat of the river. The number of wild brown trout had increased significantly to a level where anglers from all over the country and overseas came to fish. In 2004 the club's Taf Fechan project was 2nd place in the Wild Trout Trust's prestigious conservation awards. According to the EAW, it is estimated that the river will take between 6 and 12 years to recover.
Justin Neal, solicitor for the ACA said: "For years now, the local Merthyr anglers have steadily nurtured this precious river - improving the habitat and watching the numbers of wild indigenous fish multiply - only to witness the sudden and catastrophic poisoning of a whole ecosystem in a matter of hours. Money cannot fully compensate for this, but at least it may help towards the costs of restoring the river. One can only hope that United Utilities makes the necessary changes to prevent disasters like this from occurring again."
Tony Rees MBE, Treasurer and Director of MTAA said: "Members of the Association were devastated when this pollution occurred as six years of work in restoring the river was wiped out in a few hours. It was heartbreaking to see the fish dying and not being able to do anything about it. We hope that this result will set a benchmark and make polluters realise that there will be no hiding place for them. No amount of money can really compensate for the time and effort that we put in." He added: "We have always been members of the ACA and are grateful to them for the hard work they have put in to get this compensation. In this day and age no fishery owner or angling association can afford not to be a member of the ACA. They are the ones with the expertise to take on polluters."
Mark Lloyd, the ACA's Executive Director commented: "I walked along the river the day after the pollution with Tony Rees and the sight of dead fish floating down the river was extremely distressing. Volunteers from the club have worked so hard to restore this gem of a river, only to see their work ruined by carelessness. The £16,500 fine for these two colossal utility companies was derisory given the crime they committed. It is worth noting that the ACA has fought 4 claims on behalf of its members against United Utilities in the last 12 months."