HL Deb 27 March 2002 vol 633 cc71-2WA
Lord Hoyle

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made to review and identify further sensitive areas under the Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994. [HL3147]

Lord Whitty

Based on recommendations from the Environment Agency, it (by authority of the Secretary of State) was announced on 5 March 2002 that we have reviewed the identification of sensitive areas in England in accordance with the criteria in Part I of Schedule I of the Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994 (which transposes the European Council Directive (91/271/ EEC) concerning urban waste water treatment).

This review has resulted in the identification of four freshwater stretches of the Rivers Stour, Wissey, Chelmer and Leam, which are intended for the abstraction of drinking water, to be identified as sensitive areas (nitrate) on the basis of elevated levels of nitrate under the terms of the regulations.

These new requirements on water companies to remove nitrate from sewage treatment discharges will complement the action required by farmers under the Nitrates Directive.

Work to provide more stringent treatment (nitrogen removal) at six qualifying treatment works is expected to be completed by end of 2004.

One hundred and eighty bathing waters (already identified under the Bathing Waters Regulations 1991) in England are also to be identified as sensitive areas as discharges from qualifying sewage treatment works receive, or are to receive by 2005, more stringent treatment (ultraviolet disinfection) to fulfil standards of those regulations.

Funding for these improvements have already been provided for in the Office of Water Services (Ofwat) periodic review of water company price limits for the five-year period from 2000.

We are committed to a steady improvement to Britain's freshwater and bathing quality. Already we have the best-ever recorded bathing water quality. Today's moves mean that we can continue our efforts to ensure clean and healthy water both for this country's inhabitants and its aquatic life.

A list of the new sensitive areas will be printed in Hansard, and maps showing the location of all current sensitive areas (nitrate) and (bathing waters) will be deposited in the Library of the House and at offices of the Environment Agency in due course.

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