UK launches improved pollution register

Integrated pollution control inventory standardised, accessible on interactive website

The UK today published the first set of annual data from a new inventory of polluting emissions from large industrial installations. The inventory, covering England and Wales, has been hailed as one of the best in Europe in terms of data quality and scope and could serve as a model for a future EU-wide emissions inventory.

The inventory is compiled from information supplied by installation operators to the England and Wales environment agency on all emissions to air, water and land above a certain threshold value for over 150 different substances. It replaces a previous "chemicals release inventory" which was acknowledged to yield inconsistent results between installations and from year to year.

A further innovation in the inventory is its presentation on the internet. The agency claims that this is the first time a European country has provided such detailed information on industrial emissions to the public on the world wide web. Visitors to the agency's website can query a database using maps of their area or the name of specific companies to find out levels of emissions in their vicinity, as well as about the quality of bathing waters.

Launching the inventory, environment minister Michael Meacher said it would "enable public opposition to be mobilised to put pressure on polluters," who, he said, should not be satisfied "until emissions have been reduced to a harmless level." In the meantime, the figures for 1998 show that agency-regulated emissions of lead, benzene and sulphur dioxide had fallen by 60% since 1990.

The new inventory was praised by environmental group Friends of the Earth, which launched a similar web information service in February, based on earlier information extracted from the national chemicals release inventory (ENDS Daily 8 February). Industry bodies also welcomed the inventory but urged the government to produce similar figures for other economic sectors such as transport, which generate much greater quantities of certain emissions.

Margareta Stackerud of the Swedish environmental protection agency told ENDS Daily that the pollution inventory would "far exceed" the initial requirements for industrial installation emissions reporting contained in the EU's integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) directive, which will apply to new industrial plants from November.

Options for the format of the European polluting emissions register (EPER) envisaged by the directive were presented in a report co-authored by Mrs Stackerud for the European Commission last year (ENDS Daily 24 November 1998). In a review of EU member states' pollution inventories her study found that only the Netherlands matched the UK in terms of the quality of its inventory, with three other countries maintaining partially developed inventories.

Follow Up:
Environment Agency of England and Wales, tel: +44 1454 624 400.

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