NRW in a spin over unnatural Canal Flow

NRW – “The majority of water in the canal now flows in direction of the Red Jacket Pill?”

Glan-Y-Wern canal joins the Tennant Canal
Glan-Y-Wern Canal from the Crymlyn bog joining the Tennant Canal. Picture: June 2021.

14 May 2020

NRW – Natural Resources Wales

Good afternoon

My name is Chris Palmer and I am an environment officer with Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Apologies for responding to you via e-mail but I am currently working from home due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Your letter about the Tennant Canal to Caroline Jones MS, Bethan Sayed MS, Dai Lloyd MS, and Suzy Davies MS dated 12 May 2020 has been forward to me because of the concerns you have with regards to water level and risk to aquatic life fall under the remit of NRW.

The issue with water levels in the canal has been known to NRW for some time. The reason water levels drop in the canal during prolonged dry spells, such as we are currently experiencing, is due to the weir in the River Neath at Aberdulais (the main source of water into the canal) collapsed a number of years ago. This weir facilitated the movement of water into the canal to ensure levels could be maintained. We currently allow a seasonal yet temporary process to pump water into the canal at Aberdulais to alleviate some of the low flows, while a more permanent solution is sort by the relevant parties. Unfortunately, it is a contentious and complicated issue amongst multiple stakeholders and it will take some time to resolve.

In regards to your point about the canal flowing in an unnatural direction. The majority of water in the canal now flows in direction of the Red Jacket Pill, where it spills out of the canal. We are aware that at the point near where the old Glan-Y-Wern canal joins the Tennant Canal (rear of Amazon) that flows go in two directions (West towards Swansea Docks and East towards Jersey Marine). Would you be able to tell me if this is the area you have concerns about? If not and there is a different issue with flows you have concerns over, I would appreciate it if you could reply with more detail on what you have seen and where.

As you stated in your letter, management of the canal is the responsibility of the Port Tennant Canal company. They do still carry out management and maintenance activities but the scope to which they can carry out works is limited.

In the meantime, NRW continues to work on many different aspects of the canal, such as water quality and water level. We also work on connected features such as Crymlyn bog. One of our long-term goals, for example, is to improve the water balance within the bog by improving drainage and directing more water into the canal.

Going forward, water levels within the canal react very quickly, even on a daily basis. If you have immediate concerns about the current water levels in the canal or if you should witness fish in distress I recommend you contact NRW via the incident hotline to report it. Any incidents reported to us are assessed and passed to the relevant department and personnel who will deal with them accordingly. In the case of issues with the canal, reports will be forwarded to myself and my team to deal with.

I hope this e-mail goes some way to answering your questions and concerns but please feel free to reply if I can help you further.

Kind regards

Chris Palmer
Environment Officer
Neath Port Talbot Environment Team

STTC Comment.

Mr Powell of the NRW was careful to say “the ‘majority of water’ in the canal ‘now’ flows in direction of Red Jacket Pill“. Which is not really accurate. The unnatural flow can be witnessed throughout the canal on many occasions even when water is ‘NOT’ overflowing at Red Jacket Pill?

So what was the direction of flow before the NRW was founded on April 01st, 2013 because after their work at Crymlyn Bog it certainly affected the canals colour (dirty grey) and probably the direction of flow?

To explain, for over 191 years, the Tennant Canal was supplied by the spectacular Aqueduct then by a supply Weir on the River Neath until 2015, before it was mysteriously damaged? For all those years the canal mainly flowed in one direction and that’s from Aberdulais to Port Tennant.

Even when both BP pumping stations were operational twenty-four hours a day, the only thing that would change is the canals’ rate of flow, not direction… numerous fishing sessions over the years in the Summertime on the Tennant Canal when the waterway experienced many days of heavy rain resulted in the canal overflowing at the pill, but it never changed its main direction of flow from Aberdulais to Port Tennant.

Cwrt-Yr- Bettws Bridge 1950-2021
BP Oil Llandarcy Water Pumping Station at Cwrt Y Bettws in the 1950s.

But there were some seasonal flow changes especially during the cold winter months where an area of the canal ‘did flow in a different direction’. During these times the canal would flow from Port Tennant to the Red Jacket Pill with a clear tea-like colour and from Aberdulais to the Pill with the water greener in colour. Note, when the River Neath was experiencing high water conditions, probably equivalent to a yellow warning today, the canal would change to a light sandy colour from Aberdulais to the Pill. On some winter days when the canal overflowed at the Pill a perfectly straight line could be seen across the canal separating the two different shades of canal colour. But only in Winter!

Let’s say that NRW is not responsible for the canals dirty grey colour and direction of flow?

Then there could only be one reason for the change of flow direction towards Neath and that’s leaks!…

Skewen cuttings stretch of the canal at the back of Neath Abbey Industrial estate below is a definite cause for concern, followed by the overflow lock near the Neath Bridge.

Tennant Canal at Skewen Cuttings a Scheduled Monument
Skewen Cuttings – Scheduled Monument – It took almost 2 years to complete a 500yd stretch of the canal due to quicksand. Without sufficient water pressure, the Canal structures supporting its banks are collapsing. Skewen Cutting and Tramroad Bridge.

Natural Resources Wales says that if anyone has immediate concerns about the current water levels or the direction of the canal or if anyone witnesses fish in distress they recommend you contact NRW via the incident hotline to report it. Anyone would think they cared?