Scottish coastal water clean-up continues

Boyack de-designates most areas on track for derogations from EU sewage treatment requirements

Scotland is relinquishing its right under EU urban wastewater treatment law to seek derogations for lower sewage treatment standards in nine coastal areas, environment minister Sarah Boyack announced yesterday. The move follows a 1998 UK government decision not to seek legal derogations for England and Wales. Such derogations would allow primary rather than secondary sewage treatment in coastal and estuarine areas designated as less sensitive to pollution beyond 2005.

After yesterday's announcement, only three Scottish areas remain designated as "less sensitive," all of them on outlying islands. Of the original 24 Scottish designations, 12 were withdrawn in 1998. Only two other areas of the UK are still designated, according to a European Commission source, both of them in Northern Ireland.

Under the 1991 urban wastewater treatment directive, all EU sewage treatment works serving a "population equivalent" of over 2,000 where the discharge is to estuarial waters and 10,000 where the discharge is to coastal waters must be equipped with secondary treatment by 2005. Governments can seek derogations for areas designated as less sensitive. If granted, then primary treatment alone could continue.

Scotland's continuing withdrawal of less sensitive area designations appears to reflect a general move away from sewage discharge derogations under the urban wastewater directive. Aside from the UK, only Spain and Portugal have designated less sensitive areas, according to a European Commission official. Portugal withdrew three out of four proposals last month, while the Commission is disputing a number of designations made by Spain, the official said.

Follow Up:
Scottish executive, tel: +44 131 556 8400, and press release. See also European Commission pages on the urban wastewater treatment directive.

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