United Utilities Water plc v The Environment Agency

Judgement was issued this month in the case of United Utilities Water plc v The Environment Agency (EA). The claimant, United Utilities Water plc, was seeking a declaration of the Court to the effect that it was not required to apply to the EA for a permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 in respect of work performed on six of its waste water treatment plants. The case therefore required consideration of whether the 2000 Regulations applied to the waste water treatment plants or whether, as United Utilities Water plc claimed, they only applied to limited, identified industrial activities and not waste water treatment. This also gave rise to consideration of whether sewage sludge was “waste” within the definition at Article 1(a) of the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) and if so, whether it was excluded under Article 2(b)(iv) of the WFD? Within the High Court decision, Mr Justice Nelson concluded that sewage sludge was “waste” and that waste water treatment was subject to regulation under the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations 2000. However, he pointed out that the case raised “difficult questions of interpretation”, therefore potentially leaving it open to the parties to appeal the case to the Court of Appeal.


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