Pollution mystery unsolved after half-term sea ban

Ogmore-by-sea in the Vale of Glamorgan
Visitors have been told to avoid the sea at Ogmore [Getty Images]

Investigations into the source of pollution at a popular beach in south Wales remain inconclusive more than a week after people were told to avoid going into the water.

Half-term visitors to Ogmore beach in Vale of Glamorgan said they were "disappointed" to not be able to swim.

Last week, Welsh Water said it had identified a "small leak" at its Penybont wastewater treatment works.

But it has since said there was "not enough evidence" to pinpoint the problem to the plant and the source of the pollution remained unidentified.

Kyle Walford, who was visiting the beach, said: "We’ve come here to enjoy ourselves.

"You don't come to the beach to be restricted, but then you come here and see the signs. It's disappointing."

Charlotte Ingram, a mum of two girls, said: "We weren't expecting to see those signs saying don't go in the sea, it's disappointing for the girls.

"They understand, but they had their swimsuits on ready to go in the sea, and we've had to tell them there's pollution in the water and they can't go near it."

Hayley Brady, from Cardiff, said: "The signs are not clear enough.

"Now I want to take my children home and put them in the shower.

"It is disappointing for the kids at half term and they need to act quickly so we can enjoy the sea in the summer".

Mike Ellams, a marine conservationist, has had to postpone a clean up alongside the River Ogmore, which was due to take place on Saturday, citing fears for people's safety.

"We were expecting 200 people to turn up over the five days we were going to run the clear up, but we can't take the risk.

"Natural Resources Wales (NRW) have put a ban on going into the water, and water goes to the area we are cleaning, so we've had no choice but to postpone.

"People are cross about it because there's so much local concern about the state of our rivers and our beaches."

After investigations, Welsh Water said its initial reports of a "small leak" from a container was not the cause of the leak, and that there is "not enough evidence" to pinpoint the problem to the Penybont treatment plant.

"Following over 1,200 hours of detailed investigations, analysis, trial holes, CCTV inspections, and 3D scanning of pipes and tanks, no leaks or significant faults have been found at the site."

"Our initial identification of a potential leak on site was later established to be a ground water pipe unrelated to our treatment works or sewer network."

It added "sludge" in the channel where the pollution was reported was "not consistent with the microbiology of our biological process at the wastewater treatment plant".

Mike Ellams, who had to postpone the beach clean up
Mike Ellams has postponed a planned clean up of the River Ogmore [BBC]

Miles Punter, director of environment and housing services for Vale of Glamorgan council, said the local authority was in regular contact with Welsh Water and NRW.

"While the council understands the causes of the pollution incident are still being investigated, it is hugely disappointing and regrettable that we have to take additional measures to discourage people from entering the sea.

"This move comes at a time when the beach is still suffering the consequences of poor bathing water samples taking during 2023."

NRW said its investigations were continuing and the "abnormal situation" as defined by bathing water regulations would remain in place into next week.