Scotland moves to cut coastal pollution

Scotland’s estuaries, beaches and coastal waters will benefit from new sewage treatment measures, according to the Scottish Environment Minister.

The withdrawal of a special exemption from a European Commission Directive means that sewage discharges into the sea which currently receive only minimum treatment in nine areas around the Scottish coast will now require secondary treatment. According to the Scottish Executive, the result will be cleaner, safer beaches at all coastal waters in these areas with populations of more than 10,000, and estuaries with 2000 inhabitants along their banks (see related story).

“The Executive is committed to improving the standard of urban waste water treatment to safeguard and improve Scotland’s environment,” said Sarah Boyack, Scottish Minister for Transport and the Environment.

“The changes in status announced today confirm that we are delivering on our Programme of Government pledges and demonstrate the important steps being taken toward improving the quality of Scottish estuaries, coastal waters and beaches.”

The European Commission’s Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive sets a minimum standard of secondary treatment for sewage, though, in certain circumstances, exemptions are permitted for areas designated as ‘less sensitive’. Nevertheless, the Directive obliges Member States to review their designations of Less Sensitive Areas at intervals of no more than four years. This announcement by the Scottish Executive leaves only three designations in Scottish Waters, at Stornoway, Kirkwall and Lerwick.

In addition, the River Ythan estuary will receive Sensitive Area status, requiring tertiary treatment for sewage discharges. The catchment has been designated under the European Commission’s Nitrates Directive, as the waters of the estuary are, or in the near future may become, eutrophic. Discharges are required to have phosphorus and nitrogen removed.

The areas which are to lose their Less Sensitive Area exemption from the Directive are Campbeltown Loch, the Clyde coast at Girvan, the Cromarty Firth, Eyemouth, the inner Firth of Clyde, the inner Solway Firth, Oban Bay, Thurso Bay and Wick Bay.

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