Pollution of the waterways

Waiting for an internal review by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council of their handling of this request.

David Brook-Thomas

Dear Rhondda Cynon Taff Council,

An impromptu independent accompanied inspection, (acting upon information received by concerned citizens) of the rivers and streams in the Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT) jurisdiction has revealed a litter strewn, derricked dumped environment disaster.

Despite the legislation which requires local authorities to ensure that dumping is totally prohibited, and the responsibly for removing the offending rubbish, it would appear that a number of automobile and motor bicycle wrecks have been left to decay in the rivers for many years thereby allowing toxic waste spillage to freely flow downstream ie. engine oils, battery acids, petrol residue etc.

The river banks, in places, are grossly litter strewn, which apart from being obscenely unsightly and offensive, is also a health hazard, as an amount of the litter observed was putrescent material such as to make it a public nuisance and/or attract rats.

On a drive around the RCT jurisdiction, over the past weekend many areas were found to be extremely litter strewn, and a good percentage of degradable litter was found to have weathered considerably, indicating that it had lain in-situ for sometime.

I understand that RCT has a legal duty to clear refuse and litter from land for which it has responsibility, such as streets, parks, playgrounds, and pedestrian areas. Also that Section 87 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA), as amended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, makes it an offence to drop, throw or deposit and leave litter anywhere.

Further RCT has a legal duty to clear refuse and litter from land for which it has responsibility, such as streets, parks, playgrounds, and pedestrian areas.

However, in Mardy yesterday the streets were seriously litter strewn, the road leading the reservoir just past the Crosslink factory was in an appalling state mainly with beer cans cast randomly about. I understand that one resident has taken it upon himself to collect litter due to the failure of RCT to comply with its obligations under the EPA 1990 as amended.

Litter that is dropped onto streets, is often washed into our storm drains and eventually ends up in our rivers and lakes the most common litter items found include plastic bags, glass bottles, gum and cigarette butts. This debris can be harmful to humans, degrade water quality and can choke, suffocate or disable aquatic wildlife.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I would wish to know:

How often are the streets inspected and cleaned within the RCT jurisdiction, Kindly included the times and dates for the past month.

How often are the rivers inspected and made litter free within the RCT jurisdiction?

What exactly is the RCT policy on enforcement of the legislation on littering?

Yours sincerely David Brook-Thomas MSc.

David Brook-Thomas

Dear Rhondda Cynon Taff Council,

Further to my FOI request.

Your reply is now long overdue. Consequently I must draw your attention to the fact that you are now in breach of the law.

Kindly, please act with all due diligence and respect for your duties under the law, not to mention the Rhondda valleys entrusted to your stewardship.

Yours faithfully,

David Brook-Thomas

Freedomofinformation, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

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Dear Mr Brook-Thomas

Further to your request for information please find the Authority's response below:-

How often are the streets inspected and cleaned within the RCT
jurisdiction, Kindly included the times and dates for the past
month.

Street inspections are subject to a monthly 6% random computerised selection of R.C.T.'s Street Gazetteer. A sample of an inspection sheet is attached. Also attached is the latest available report (Oct-Dec 11) showing the results of these inspections.

How often are the rivers inspected and made litter free within the
RCT jurisdiction?

The Environment Agency is responsible for the care of waterways within RCT borough boundaries. You will therefore need to re-direct your request to that Authority and can do so by clicking on the following link:-

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/abo...

What exactly is the RCT policy on enforcement of the legislation on
littering?

The Authority complies with the DEFRA code of practice on litter and refuse and DEFRA guidance on the use of fixed penalty notices.

Kind regards

Corporate Governance Unit
On behalf of the Director of Legal and Democratic Services
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

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David Brook-Thomas

Dear Freedomofinformation,

Reply to RCT-

Dear Freedomofinformation,

Thank you for your comprehensive reply. I apologise for the delay in getting back to you as it was necessary to make further thorough checks.

I am going to have to request that you Internally Review your reply in order for RCT Council to be absolutely certain of the content which they have provided me with under the FO1 Act 2000.

Regrettably your reply does not conform with my documented and photographic evidence of Street littering, Railway embankment litter, derelict land litter, and much of the Riparian areas, and more, covered by the jurisdiction of RCT Council. Indeed far from it. I would, with respect, suggest that the Environment Enforcement Team of RCT council take a train journey down from Aberdare to Pontypridd, and just look out of the carriage windows…It’s a heartbreaking shameful environment disaster.

I agree that the Environment Agency is responsible for the cleansing of the waterways. I needed RCT Council to confirm that point. The reason being in just one example: In the Upper Rhondda Fach there are a number of rusting wrecks in the waterway and these wrecks have been there for many, many, many years.

Furthermore, in the immediate vicinity, the river banks are extremely badly littered and have been so for a considerable number of years without attention.

The same applies to the No I reservoir above Maerdy. What should be a site of significant beauty and leisure has been pollution bound with many items, including an excessive amount of beer cans, and the usual garbage that one expects to find around itinerant camp fires. The reservoir embankment, surrounding area, and road way leading to the reservoir has been litter strewn for way over the cleansing periods that you have indicated. Obviously, these areas have not been inspected, yet you appear to be implying they are so inspected on a regular basis in order to comply with the legal obligations required of RCT Council.

I understand it is normal practice for local authorities to liaise with the Environment Agency where there is major pollution of the waterways such as dumped cars, etc which obviously leak oils, battery acids and other metallic polluting materials into river waters.

If however RCT Council are not carrying out their duties, which appears to be the case, despite the requirements of the law, then obviously they can hardly have inspected polluted areas and tendered feed back to the Environment Agency, which is of course the obvious the reason why the areas mentioned remain badly litter polluted, and the rivers infested with dumped vehicles although that said the Environment also have a statutory duty to ensure the waters are free form pollution.

I shall be taking this, and other issues up with the Environment Agency, in due course as for the moment my priority is to ensure that RCT are fulfilling their legal duties, and obviously in doing so keeping our beloved valleys as litter free as is humanly possible and thereby affording the council tax payers the value for money they desperately need in order to keep the Rhondda attractive for any potential inward investments which of course mean jobs.

Jobs are a subject that we need a highly innovated, and motivated, approach to securing. And it is my experience that a clean environmental friendly locality is a most influential factor when industry considers relocating apart from being healthy for the residents, who in any event are already paying for this service,

I keenly await the result of the Internal Review that I have requested.

Yours sincerely,

David Brook-Thomas

Freedomofinformation, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

Dear Mr Brook-Thomas

Further to your email below we note the request for an internal review. Before this can be progressed however we should be grateful if you could state what part, or parts of the request you feel have been inadequately addressed particularly as no information has been refused or exempted. This is so as to ensure any review carried out can adequately address your issues or concern with the information provided. The internal review cannot deal with subsequent issues raised such as those in your email below.

Furthermore the issues raised in your email would be better addressed either directly to the Authority's Head of Streetcare for response or submitted through the Council's feedback scheme via its website.

Kind regards

Corporate Governance Unit
On behalf of the Director of Legal and Democratic Services
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

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David Brook-Thomas

Dear Freedomofinformation,

Thank you for your reply. With respect I must, in order to ensure both clarity and fairness to your good-selves, insist upon the right to an Internal Review of the answers that you have provided.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 provides a
General Right of Access to information held by public authorities.

The aim of the FOI is to make public authorities more open and accountable.

In order to ensure the proper accountability RCT will obviously agree that accuracy in FOI responses is of paramount importance.

I agree that no information that I have requested has been refused or exempted, and indeed it would appear that for your purposes that you have conformed admirably with my requests albeit in principle.

However in fact it becomes a different issue which would indicate that my requests have indeed been inadequately addressed. As without dated signatures of those responsible the information provided is rather meaningless and could hardly be considered as being in the spirit of the law and clarity!

The practical effectiveness of you responses, as previously stated, does not comply with the empirical observations, reports and photographic evidence that I have collated over many months.

Therefore, I believe that in order to facilitate RCT with the opportunity to ensure the complete veracity of their reply, an Internal Review would be the best manner in which to do so.

Providing blank forms and codes of practice is of no use to me whatsoever. I would require the signature of the those responsibly actually "inspecting and collecting."

I do not intend, at this stage, to question the integrity of RCT in the matter of fulfilling their legal obligation and public duties under the EPA 1990.

However. I have provided your good selves with the opportunity to inspect the litter strewn environment visible on a train journey from Aberdare to Pontypridd which has obviously not been collected for, "A VERY LONG TIME". LONG MEANING MORE THAN SIX (6) MONTHS.

Also in order to assist you further, kindly allow me to offer RCT another example: The entrance to the WHAT retail outlet! What Stores Ltd, Aberdare CF44 9HW. The staff have informed me that they are constantly asking RCT to collect many weeks of accumulated litter.

I have many, many such incidents on file together with time dated photographic evidence.

I would be grateful for your kind cooperation in this matter, after all we have the best interests of the Rhondda, and its council taxpayers at heart, do we not?

Please note, there are no subsequent issues, simply the matter of conformity to the public duties of RCT contained within the EPA 1990. The internal review will serve to establish, in fact, and not in principle the veracity of your reply.

Yours sincerely,

David Brook-Thomas

David Brook-Thomas

Dear Freedomofinformation,

Dear Sirs I note that my request for an Internal Review is overdue.

Kindly attend to your legal obligations please

Yours sincerely,

David Brook-Thomas

David Brook-Thomas

Dear Freedomofinformation,

I requested an Internal Review of your reply, which was clealry evasive and totally inadequate, on 7 April 2012.

Please inform me when you intend to respond.

Allow me to take this opportunity to be perfectly clear.

It is now sadly most obvious that RCTCBC are failing in their duties to the public, and the law, to ensure the proper, and effective standards of litter control. Furthermore, in certain areas, RCTCBC are flagrantly making no attempts at conformity to the requirement of the EPA 1990, as amended, while still expecting the citizens of the Borough to pay for this service via Council Taxes.

I should point out that this is a fraud, and hardly what one would term as being an integral part of a Democratic Service as indicated thus....Corporate Governance Unit, On behalf of the Director of Legal and Democratic Services Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.

Therefore kindly inform me what step are being taken to rectify this appalling situation.

Yours sincerely,

David Brook-Thomas

Freedomofinformation, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

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THIS E-MAIL IS SENT ON BEHALF OF CHRISTOPHER JONES - SERVICE DIRECTOR LEGAL AND DEMOCRATIC SERVICES


Dear Mr Brook-Thomas

I refer to your recent correspondence and to your request for an internal review of the Council's response to this request issued under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act'). As the Service Director for Legal and Democratic Services it falls to me to consider requests for an internal review. My review has involved a full reconsideration of the request together with the issues you have raised in your email.

Having considered your email, investigated the information held and discussed the matter with appropriate officers I believe you have been provided with the information which the Council holds in a recorded form relevant to your request, or you have been directed to the relevant bodies which may hold additional information that may be of relevance. That is to say I believe the Council has met its obligations under the Act.

I note however in your email below you would like to view a sample of the completed inspection sheets, an example of which was provided in the Council's original response. In that regard please find these attached.

I note your general comments in respect of the wider issues to which your request relates and the suggestions the Council has already made to you in this regard. I would reiterate that should you wish to discuss or raise these issues further they should be properly addressed to the Service Director for Streetcare.

As you may be aware you may now, if you remain dissatisfied, appeal to the Information Commissioner. You will find further details of the process on his website at http://www.ico.gov.uk

Yours sincerely,

Christopher B. Jones

Service Director Legal and Democratic Services

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David Brook-Thomas

Dear Freedomofinformation,

I regret to inform you that my associates have completed a survey of litter, and solid and other waste left lying around uncollected for many, many months within the jurisdiction of RCT.

Clearly RCT is in breach of its duties under the law and of its duties to serve the public well.

After all it is expected that the responsible members of the public pay their council taxes as demanded, and therefore a reciprocal situation should exist with RCT and its public obligations. Sadly this is not so.

Any reasonably competent and qualified environment protection and public health practitioner would have taken steps to ensure this situation is immediately rectified in order to be in compliance, with both the law, and public expectations.

Regrettably, I find that there cannot be any reasonably competent and qualified environment protection practitioners within the RCT organization, as if there were, the litter situation would not be as found and documented, over no less that a six months period.

Its felt that there is a need to dismiss the current staff employed in these areas in order to engage more competent and dedicated public servants!

Yours sincerely,

David Brook-Thomas