The Taf
Litter seen in polluted Taf

“Wet wipes, condoms and a chemical cocktail”: Pollution in the River Taff

Campaigners and people in Cardiff are calling for more action from Welsh Water as they say they have become worried about using their local rivers.

Recent data analysis from campaign group ‘Top of the Poops‘ reveals the most polluted rivers in the UK and the list includes six from Wales – including the River Taff.

Kim Waters, founder of Welsh Rivers Union says he values the work that community litter-pick groups are doing, but the issues are more serious and run much deeper.

He says he tells his wild swimming friends not to go near the Taff as the bacteria and pathogens found there are a “serious public health risk”.

“I want to engage in the river in a positive way – fishing, paddling, taking my kids and grandkids down to the river – rather than having to wade through wet wipes, condoms and a chemical cocktail.”

Cardiff Rivers Group on a Taf litter pick this weekend

A number of water sports groups including Cardiff Paddleboard and Kayak use the Taff for their activities. One group – The Taffy Dippers – even swims in the river.

Today, walkers in Bute Park expressed concerns about using their local river after learning about the extent of the pollution. One woman, who was out with her grandchildren, said she was nervous about letting them play by the water: “I wouldn’t like them to, to be honest with you. I’ve got 6 grandchildren and I wouldn’t be happy about it.

“I wasn’t aware of how bad the rivers were here but I think it’s disgraceful. Absolutely disgraceful.”

The Taff ranked number 20 on the list of the UK’s most polluted rivers and was one of six Welsh rivers to be included.

Welsh rivers on the list

9) River Teifi

12) River Usk

14) River Wye

17) River Tawe

18) Menai Strait

20) River Taf

Sanitary towel found on banks of River Taf

What is the problem?

For many people the main concern is around sewage being pumped into the river.

Storm overflow drains are discharging excess sewage to rivers and sea fronts when rainfall exceeds capacity. The drains are designed to protect properties from flooding and keep sewage off the streets, but instead is pumped into rivers – causing environmental problems and risking the health of river users.

Trevor Wing, Chairman of Llandaff Rowing Club, says the River Taff “has been neglected for years”.

He says river pollution and litter are making it harder to get people out on the water. Storm overflows have washed all sorts into the path of club members – including a fridge.

“Welsh Water and Local Councils are playing a game of not our problem’, pointing the finger at the other. There’s a blame culture where no one wants to take responsibility,” said Mr Wing.

Feargal Sharkey calls for action

Dwr Cymru has said that it monitors 99% of its storm overflows, which it claims is more than any other water company and says the excess is often due to high rainfall levels in Wales.

“We are investing over £900m to protect the environment between 2020 and 2025,” said a previous statement by Dwr Cymru.

“With 44% of Welsh rivers achieving good ecological status, compared to 16% in England, we are playing our part by investing to prevent any water body in Wales failing good ecological status by 2030 as a result of our wastewater treatment works.”

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