UK faces massive fines over sewage failures

12th November 2012


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Central government ,
  • Water ,
  • Pollution & Waste Management ,
  • Prevention & Control

Author

IEMA

European courts have ruled that the UK is in breach of EU water quality rules, leaving the country facing heavy fines.

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that inadequate sewage treatment facilities in London and Sunderland mean the UK is in breach of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC), and could be subject to heavy fines from the European Commission.

Under the Directive, EU member states had to ensure specified water-quality standards were met in urban areas by 31 December 2000. More than a decade later, however, there remain four plants in the UK that release raw sewage into waterways when overwhelmed by storm waters.

The court rejected the UK's argument that it was complying with the Directive because it was working to improve the sites, stating that member states could not justify non-compliance with the requirements and time limits of a directive by pleading practical, administrative or financial difficulties.

The European judges did not specify a financial penalty to be imposed on the UK government, but in 2010 the commission requested that Belgium be fined €15 million and ordered to pay another €62,000 for each day it remained in breach of the same water-quality legislation.

Responding to the ruling, a Defra spokesperson said: "We are disappointed by the court's findings as we are already working on major improvements to sewage and treatment systems in London."

Alongside updating five sewage treatment works in London, Thames Water is planning to create the Thames Tideway Tunnel - a £4.2 billion "super sewer" - to solve the city's capacity and water-quality issues.

Plans for the tunnel have been the subject of public consultation, and a final submission to the planning inspectorate is expected early next year. Following the European court's ruling, however, Labour peer Lord Berkeley called on the government to review the project and investigate whether there are any cheaper alternatives.


Transform articles

UK Emissions Trading Scheme ruled lawful

In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

30th July 2021

Read more

Thames Water has been fined £4m after untreated sewage escaped from sewers below London into a park and a river.

30th July 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.

30th July 2021

Read more

Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.

5th July 2021

Read more

IEMA has today urged the UK government to focus on developing green skills and expertise across business, industry and civil society following the publication of an alarming report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

16th June 2021

Read more

The majority of UK consumers are willing to compromise on online purchases and delivery demands if it creates a more sustainable environment, new research suggests.

9th June 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert