The Welsh Government is calling for more funding to help emergency preparedness after releasing new data on the number of coal tip sites – with Neath Port Talbot having more than double the number of any other local authority in Wales.
The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford has made a fresh call for the UK Government to invest in coal tip safety and ‘help communities who have already given so much’.
For the first time ever, the Welsh Government has been able to provide a breakdown of the 2,456 identified tips in Wales split into risk categories and by local authority.
The new data follows a written statement from Climate Change Minister Julie James earlier this month where she confirmed Welsh Government had collected the data and shared with local authorities and Local Resilience Forums to assist with emergency preparedness.
The data shows that Neath Port Talbot has the greatest number of sites at 607 but that Rhondda Cynon Taf has the most sites classified as being at higher risk at 75.
Higher risk sites fall under categories C and D which recognise there is a potential to cause risk to safety, not that there is an imminent or immediate threat – it means that more frequent inspections are scheduled.
The publication of the data comes ahead of this afternoon’s Coal Tip Safety Summit, which is meeting for the fourth time. The summit will discuss the progress of the Coal Tip Safety Task Force, including data mapping and ongoing maintenance and inspection work.
Funding for the long-term reclamation of coal tips will also be discussed at the summit. Repurposing, reclamation and remediation of disused coal tips to deal with the legacy of the pre-devolution mining industry is estimated to cost at least £500m to £600m over the next decade and a half. The Welsh Government has stressed the need for this investment to be frontloaded in the coming years, as rainfall intensifies and temperatures increase because of the changing climate.
Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, said: “We recognise how concerning living in the shadow of a coal tip can be for communities and we want to reassure local residents that a lot of work is being done to ensure they are safe.
“An inspection and maintenance regime is in place, with winter inspections currently underway on the higher risk tips. We’re also piloting technology trials to better understand any ground movement at higher risk sites. But we know the risks will increase with climate change and we know the importance of reaching a long-term solution.
“These sites pre-date devolution. Our funding settlement does not recognise the substantial, long-term costs of remediating and repairing these sites. Tomorrow’s Spending Review is an opportunity for the UK Government to use its financial powers to help communities who’ve given so much to Wales and the United Kingdom during the coal-mining years. A package of investment to remediate these sites will show how our two governments can work together for the communities we serve.”
Councillor Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), WLGA Leader said: “Work is being undertaken regularly to monitor and inspect coal tips for any movement or activity. However, this data shows that substantial long-term investment is needed if we are to make sure that necessary repair work is carried out and to ensure the safety of these sites across Wales.
“I am pleased that both the UK Government and Welsh Government are taking the issue seriously and have set up the Coal Tip Safety Task Force to jointly map out the work needed. However, despite a cross-party joint letter endorsed by all of the 22 council leaders in Wales requesting UK Government funding, it is disappointing that the UK Government – despite some initial financial support – has so far refused to commit to an ongoing programme of funding which is going to be needed to deal with this legacy issue which pre-dates devolution.
“The Spending Review gives a chance for the UK Government to give some much-needed reassurance to communities that are still living in the shadow of their industrial legacy. By working together with partners including UK Government, Welsh Government and local government, and with long term investment, we can help to make sure that we protect these sites against future climate change risks, and to prevent repeating past disasters.”
Wales Disused Coal Tips
Coal Tips listed by local authority in risk category, with Category D the highest risk.
Local Authority Category D Category C Category B Category A Reclaimed Tips Local Authority Total Neath Port Talbot 12 27 163 375 30 607 Rhondda Cynon Taf 23 52 95 89 44 303 Wrexham 3 21 107 85 216 Caerphilly 7 44 67 79 8 205 Swansea 5 36 120 42 203 Torfaen 3 32 81 49 10 175 Carmarthenshire 58 59 53 170 Blaenau Gwent 3 11 38 66 10 128 Merthyr Tydfill 14 45 30 30 1 120 Bridgend 5 26 27 56 4 118 Flintshire 19 40 6 65 Pembrokeshire 1 6 54 61 Powys 1 18 6 3 28 Monmouthshire 2 10 7 8 27 Cardiff 1 10 11 22 Isle of Anglesey 2 6 8 Overall Category Total 71 256 678 1155 296 2456
Note: Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, Newport and The Vale of Glamorgan have no recorded disused coal tips. Monmouthshire – figures are subject to final review by Local Authority. Figures are subject to change as a result of ongoing inspections and following the development of new categorisation system to be introduced in new legislation.
(Lead image: Rhondda Cynnon Taf CBC)
Four men fined £6,000 for ‘barbaric’ illegal foul hook fishing
Four men caught using a barbaric and illegal fishing method by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) enforcement officers during patrols of the River Loughor, near Llanelli, have been fined a total of £6,000.
They each appeared before Llanelli Magistrates Court on 16 and 17 June and pleaded guilty to the offence of foul hooking – also known as snatching – which is prohibited under Section 1 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975.
They were fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £10,300 to NRW for investigation costs.
The men were caught by NRW fisheries enforcement officers who were undertaking riverbank patrols of the River Loughor in summer 2021, working to address and prevent the use of foul hook fishing.
Each fish caught using the foul hooking method had been snagged on its tail, back or flank. All fishing equipment and illegally caught fish were seized by NRW and later confiscated by the court.
Alun Thomas, Senior Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “Foul hook fishing is barbaric, unethical and illegal. This method of fishing is not only indiscriminate on what species or size fish that are killed, but also inflicts untold damage to unseen numbers of fish which are likely to die of their injuries soon after. This is often made worse by using deliberately tampered fishing lures.
“NRW’s Fisheries Enforcement Officers and police take these incidents seriously, as do the courts. Hopefully, the small minority of anglers considering using illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines issued by the courts.”
Romuald Krzysztof Biernacki of Dwyfor, Llanelli, was caught using the foul hooking method on 4 July 2021. He had illegally caught four mullets and six flounder fish.
Biernacki was fined £1,500 and made to pay part of NRW’s investigation costs of £2,500.
Hung Van Tran, travelled from his Gibson Road home in Handsworth, Birmingham, to fish on river Loughor on 25 August 2021. NRW fisheries enforcement officers discovered he had illegally caught four mullet fish using the foul hook method.
Hung Van Tran was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay part of NRW’s investigation costs of £1,800.
Duc Duy Tran of Brithweynydd, Tonypandy, and Tan Van Tran of Pentrebane Street, Caerphilly, were caught during another river patrol carried out by NRW fisheries enforcement officers accompanied by Dyfed-Powys Police’s Wildlife Crime Officer on 6 September 2021.
Duc Duy Tran had illegally caught 14 mullet fish and was fined £1,500. He must also pay £3,000 to NRW for investigation costs.
Tan Van Tran had illegally caught four mullet fish. He was fined £1,500, plus £3,000 to NRW for investigation costs.
Alun Thomas added: “We would like to thank Dyfed-Powys Police, the local community and law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities. I urge them to continue to report such activity and we will investigate.
“We would encourage anyone going fishing to familiarise themselves with the rules and regulations before going.”
(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)
Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions
Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.
Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.
Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.
Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”
The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.
Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”
Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”
In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.
These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.
Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”
(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)
Pembrokeshire charity recruits community fuel champions￼
Pembrokeshire FRAME has received funding to recruit a community fuel co-ordinator and five volunteer champions as they look to raise awareness about energy efficiency, whilst tackling fuel poverty across the county.
The funding from gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, will allow the charity to act as a community point of contact for those facing fuel poverty issues and will help to make a positive difference to local communities most in need.
The employed advisor and five volunteer champions will help individuals claim benefits, provide debt management advice and make referrals through to Wales & West Utilities existing network of partnerships. They will also be able sign people up to the Priority Services Register (PSR), make referrals for specialist support with fitting Locking Cooker Valves and distribute free carbon monoxide alarms.
Gas emergency and pipeline service, Wales & West Utilities, has provided the funding as part of its Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA).
Paul Hughes, Chief Officer at Pembrokeshire FRAME, said: “This funding will allow us to deliver far-reaching benefits. Not only will it allow us to get into the heart of Pembrokeshire communities to help those most in need to gain specific advice on energy efficiency and gas safety, but it will allow us to provide employment and volunteering opportunities to local people.
“We are all feeling the impacts of the rising costs of living, and this funding will allow us to run a 5 day a week hotline for fuel poverty and carbon monoxide enquiries, whilst having face to face contact across communities.
“It’s great that Wales & West Utilities is supporting our efforts by providing this funding and we are hopeful that many people will benefit.”
Pembrokeshire FRAME is a supported employment and life changing charity that transforms hundreds of lives in Pembrokeshire each year, by providing access to learning, supported and meaningful occupation, voluntary and employment opportunities and help and support to enable individuals to reach their potential. The community fuel champion will be based at the charity’s Merlin Bridge site, however, will also work in Pembroke Dock.
Tom Robinson, Social Obligations Specialist at Wales & West Utilities, said: “We’re delighted that this funding will allow Pembrokeshire FRAME to support the most vulnerable by providing vital energy efficiency advice and safety information.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to support those most in need in our communities. Working with trusted partners like Pembrokeshire FRAME means we can help more people stay safe in their own homes.”
Between April 2021 to March 2026, Wales & West Utilities has £7m to spend on projects which support consumers in vulnerable situations and raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and keep people safe from the ‘silent killer’.
Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, kills 50 people a year in England and Wales and hospitalises many more. In the UK, there are more than 4,000 visits to Accident & Emergency for treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning – which can often lead to lasting neurological damage. Even low levels of exposure over an extended period can cause serious health issues, including brain injuries.
Funding is made from the Vulnerability and Carbon Monoxide Allowance (VCMA), and 75% of the money will be spent on projects relevant to Wales and south west England only, while 25% will be spent on collaborative projects with the other gas networks across the whole of the UK.
(Lead image: Wales & West Utilities)
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