UK gets final warning over urban waste water treatment

The UK received a final written warning from the European Commission this week over its non-compliance with the 1991 Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

The Directive requires sewage and other wastewater from areas with populations of over 15,000 to undergo secondary biological treatment before it can be discharged into watercourses. The necessary treatment plants to achieve this should have been operational by December 2000.

However, the UK has been found guilty of non-compliance in 14 agglomerations. Nine of these are in Northern Ireland, four in England and one in Scotland.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “By not fully complying with this EU law, the UK is not delivering the level of protection against pollution from waste water that it signed up to and that British citizens deserve. I intend to give priority to ensuring that Member States live up to their commitments.”

In Northern Ireland the situation is being exacerbated, the Commission says, due to substantial new development being allowed in areas where no appropriate wastewater treatment is in place (see related story).

This appears to be happening despite the authorities’ own assessment that the developments pose a medium to high risk of having negative environmental impacts.

The Commission must now wait for a reply from the UK Government before any legal action can be taken.

By David Hopkins

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