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Figures released recently by the Department of Environment (DoE) indicate that water pollution cases are unlikely to be heard in court, prompting calls for tougher enforcement of water standards.

Most of the cases reported last year resulted in a warning letter, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

A DoE representative quoted by the paper said 2007 saw 1,259 confirmed cases of water pollution.

An additional 1,036 unconfirmed cases also occurred, however, only 60 recommendations for court action were submitted.

Patsy McGLone, chair of the Assembly Environment Committee, has condemned the Northern Ireland Environment Agency over its stance on water standards, claiming that it is inefficient.

“This now reinforces the case for an independent environmental protection agency which would have the power and bite to actually make a difference to help protect our environment,” she said.

Calls from politicians and environmental groups alike for an independent watchdog for environmental issues have been made in recent months, since Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK and Ireland without an environment protection agency.

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