TV wildlife presenter Iolo Williams is urging walkers, anglers and waterway users who see sewage pollution in Welsh rivers and streams to: "See it, report it, and Welsh Water will stop it."
Iolo is backing Welsh Water's campaign asking people using rivers for recreation to help minimise any impact of sewage spills by being its eyes and nose for our waterways.
Welsh Water has invested huge sums on wastewater treatment to protect our watercourses in Wales, but says that problems sometimes occur on its vast sewerage network.
Iolo, who is well known for his television nature programmes, is urging river users such as canoeists, kayakers, anglers and dog walkers to help protect the aquatic environment and support the Wales-wide 'See it. Report it. Stop it' initiative.
Iolo said, "Welsh Water's environmental performance has massively improved over recent years, but sometimes things can go wrong on the network of thousands of kilometers of sewerage pipes, treatment works and pumping stations. The company is determined to do all it can to protect the environment – and I hope those of us who value our wonderful rivers for wildlife, sport and amenity will help to minimise the effect of this kind of pollution by ensuring it is dealt with swiftly.
"Sewage pollution would be a very unpleasant thing to encounter whilst canoeing and it happens rarely. But Welsh Water needs help from river users so that it can react quickly and deal with the problem, before it causes any environmental damage, kills fish and potentially causes a human health hazard. The message is simple; if you see pollution, report it to Welsh Water and they'll take action to stop it."
Welsh Water's Head of Wastewater Networks Andrew Bowen added, "If you are a canoeist, kayaker, fisherman or just having a stroll by the river and see what looks like sewage pollution then please report it to us. Call our free hotline straight away, tell us what you see and where it is and we'll send someone to investigate and fix the problem."
He added that the obvious sign of sewage pollution of a watercourse is the presence of sewage solids in the water, but there may also be other indications. These include:
- toilet debris - such as tissue paper, condoms and sanitary products
- soap suds or a milky-looking discharge in the water
- a noticeable sewage smell
Welsh Water says if you see sewage pollution from its pipes or other equipment call 0800 085 3968. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and calls are free from a BT landline.
He added, "When we have all the necessary information we'll take immediate action. Sewage pollution is a high priority and we will aim to be on site within four hours. We'll also tell the Environment Agency immediately, as it looks after rivers in Wales and England.
"If our sewers are found to be responsible for the pollution, we'll stop it as soon as we can, clean up the watercourse and any other affected areas and also investigate to prevent future recurrence. If the pollution is not caused by one of our sewers or treatment sites then we will inform the responsible party and the Environment Agency will take action."
Chris Mills, Director, Environment Agency Wales said: "We fully support this new phone line that will enable Dwr Cymru Welsh Water to respond even faster to reports of sewage pollution. This will speed up the action they take to limit the pollution and help protect rivers and the people and wildlife who use them.
"Welsh Water will notify us of all reports as soon as they happen so we can investigate the cause and oversee the response.
"The important thing is that people do report what they see that has the potential to harm their local environment so we can take action and make sure it is protected."
Welsh Water operates a massive network of sewers and treatment works and is working hard to reduce the number of pollution incidents which occasionally occur due to equipment failure and other causes by more than a quarter by 2014 by investing £12.5million in a Pollution Reduction Action Plan.
This includes £5million of maintenance and improvement schemes, improving existing equipment and monitoring systems, and working with the 'River Rangers' who are carrying out inspections near to watercourses.
Welsh Water is investing heavily and working hard to ensure top quality services to all the communities it serves. The company is investing £1.4 billion in its water and sewerage network between 2010 and 2015.
It is a 'not-for-profit company' which has been owned by Glas Cymru since 2001. Welsh Water does not have shareholders, and any financial surpluses are reinvested in the business for the benefit of customers.