Ireland acts on groundwater nitrate pollution

Government to set up nitrate vulnerable zones to comply with 1991 EU directive

The Irish environment ministry has announced the designation of several "nitrate vulnerable zones" (NVZs) in an attempt to control excessive agriculture-derived pollution of groundwaters. Announced on Saturday, the measures also include planned action programmes to control nitrate pollution in the new NVZs. Ireland has been under legal pressure from the European Commission to comply with this aspect of the 1991 nitrates directive (ENDS Daily 20 May 1999).

According to the nitrates directive, action programmes are to be set up within one year of NVZ designation and implemented within four. In addition, the environment ministry has introduced several of its own measures. A national code of practice for farmers to prevent nitrates pollution of groundwaters in NVZs, which is voluntary under the directive, is to become mandatory, while moves to reduce phosphorus use are to be extended to nitrogen.

"Much more remains to be done," an environment ministry spokesperson said. "Significant deficiencies persist in the waste storage capacity on farms...[and] the use of nitrogen fertilisers continues to rise," he added.

* In a related development, the Irish Times newspaper has claimed that the government has failed to implement 65 EU directives by their legal deadlines. Environmental laws were second worst implemented after single market rules, with measures overdue on 17 directives, the paper reported in its Saturday edition.

Follow Up:
Irish environment ministry, tel: +353 1 888 2000 and press release; Irish Times, tel: +353 1 679 2022, and article on EU law implementation.

Please sign in to access this article. To subscribe, view our subscription options, or take out a free trial.

Please enter your details

Forgotten password?

Having trouble signing in?

Contact Customer Support at
or call 020 8267 8120

Not a subscriber?

Take a free trial now to discover the critical insights and updates our coverage offers subscribers.