The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) announced on 23 March that water companies in England will have to tell the Environment Agency about chemical emissions to water from sewage treatment works, using a standard list of substances and reporting thresholds under the Pollution Inventory. The Inventory, which was set up in 1999, is based on annual reporting by large industrial sites of substances released to air, water or land and allows the public to type in a postcode, or click on a map, to find out about emissions in their area (see related story).

The inclusion will be phased in so that the largest sewage treatment works will begin reporting this year, with smaller works being brought in over the following two years, says the DETR.

The Government has been in discussion with the Water Industry and the Environment Agency since 1999 concerning reporting to the Pollution Inventory of emissions to controlled waters from sewage treatment works in England. In order to provide legal certainty for the water industry, a Direction has been drawn up under Section 202 of the Water Industry Act 1991 which has set up the following timetable for reporting:

  • in 2001 works with a population equivalent (pe) greater than 150,000 will report 2000 data;
  • in 2002 works with a pe greater than 50,000 will report 2001 data; and
  • in 2003 works with a pe greater than 15,000 or with a discharge consent for listed substances will report 2002 data.

Monitored data will be reported where this is collected for other purposes, otherwise the data will be estimated or calculated. Work has been undertaken by the Environment Agency and the Water Industry to develop estimating methodologies and this work will continue through 2001, says the DETR.

“The Pollution Inventory is hugely important in giving people access to information about their local environment,” commented Environment Minister Michael Meacher. “Once people and companies are aware of the sort of substances that reach the environment, where they come from, and why, there will be much more pressure brought to bear to minimise those effects wherever possible. Sewage contamination is a serious health and environmental issue, and the public are entitled to know the facts.”

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