HC Deb 12 December 1988 vol 143 cc400-1W
Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Wakefield on 28 November, he will give the reasons for his conclusion that the information supplied to his Department by the Yorkshire water authority in its annual return for 1987 detailing the discharge and monitoring of list one substances does not constitute a breach of the relevant European Community directives governing discharges of these substances.

Mr. Redmond

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is going to take against Yorkshire water authority for breaching the European directives for mercury and cadmium being found in river sediment in addition to breaches for the pesticide lindane; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Moynihan

I apologise to the hon. Member that only the first paragraph of the five-paragraph answer which I had prepared was given to him. The full answer should have read as follows:

On the basis of the periodic returns supplied by Yorkshire water authority, the Department does not consider that the requirements of the relevant European Community directives governing discharges of these substances have been breached. Measures taken by Yorkshire water authority have resulted in considerable reductions in the discharge of mercury and cadmium in recent years, and all authorised discharges meet the requirements of the relevant directives. The directives also specify that concentrations of these substances in sediments must not increase significantly with time, and again the monitoring carried out by Yorkshire water authority demonstrates a general downward trend, although because of the persistence of these substances some time lag can be expected before the improvements in water concentrations show up fully in improved sediment concentrations.

The 1987 sediment monitoring results do show a small increase in the mercury concentration at one location, but this is not considered to be significant against the overall trend at that location since 1984. The 1986 sediment monitoring results also showed an increase over the previous year in the measurement of cadmium at one location, but the 1987 results shows no further increase, and it is too early to establish a reliable trend. In neither case is the increase believed to be due to the effects of any current discharge, but future results at these locations will be monitored carefully and appropriate action taken if any significant upward trend should emerge.

The levels of lindane in some Yorkshire rivers have been a matter of concern, though these are due largely to past use of this highly persistent pesticide. The Department receives regular reports from Yorkshire water authority about its programmes to eliminate any remaining sources of pollution and is satisfied with the considerable efforts that the authority has made.

There has been a steady decline in the concentration of lindane at all monitoring points in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue. The latest data supplied by Yorkshire water authority indicate that the quality standard in the relevant European Community directive is now exceeded at only one monitoring point, and the concentration here is expected to fall within the standard in the near future. The water authority has not identified any current source or user of lindane whose discharge could be linked to this particular reading. However, they are continuing to monitor the position and to search for any possible unknown sources.