Danish sewage management "out of control"

Auken threatens withdrawal of regional powers unless "law and order" is "re-established"

Regional Danish authorities have been reprimanded by Danish environment minister Svend Auken after a survey showed they have poor control over distribution of sewage sludge to farmers for agricultural use.

Under Danish waste law, regional councils have authority over wastewater treatment plants and may distribute sewage sludge to farmers for use as fertiliser. Runoff from agricultural land can lead to eutrophication of water, as happened in spectacular fashion this summer in Denmark's Mariager Fjord, which was declared "dead" (ENDS Daily 9 September). To enable regulation of the amount of nutrients added to farmland, farmers are required to supply details to the regional authorities of their crops and planned sludge use before planting season begins.

However, a recently published survey carried out for the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that less than half of regional authorities had received plans, and only a fifth of these had been delivered by the required time.

"In every way this is unsatisfactory," Mr Auken told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday. He also revealed that he has threatened Danish local authorities with centralisation of their powers over sludge management unless they secure "within a very short time...a complete and consistent implementation" of the waste law.

According to the survey, not only have councils not properly controlled sludge management in their own areas, but they have also failed to deal with transfers between jurisdictions. Under a quarter of councils had notified each other about cross-boundary movements of sludge, as required under the law, the survey reveals.

The councils "don't ask for plans," an EPA official told ENDS Daily. "[So] they don't have the chance to see if the sludge is overdosed, and they don't do anything to control it."

On Monday, Mr Auken is to meet the chairman of the National Association of Regional Governments, Evan Jensen to push home his demand that "law and order" be "re-established". Mr Jensen remained unbowed this week. The association would make a plan to fix the situation, he told Danish newspaper Politiken this week. "I will, of course, fight to keep the supervision with the regional councils."

Follow Up:
Danish Environmental Protection Agency, tel: +45 32 66 01 00; National Association of Regional Governments, tel: +45 33 12 27 88.

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