European Commission takes UK Government to Court of Justice

08.10.2009

Northumbrian Water is disappointed that Whitburn has been mentioned in what is a matter between the European Commission and the United Kingdom Government.

The water company continues to invest hundreds of millions of pounds to upgrade its vast 16,000 km sewerage network which stretches from Berwick down to North Yorkshire and across to the Pennines to ensure it complies with the requirements and regulations set by the UK Government.

The Whitburn Bathing Water Scheme, which was commissioned in 1995 to meet mandatory requirements of the Bathing Water Directive, has consistently met these requirements, and those of the UK Government, every year since then.  All bathing waters in the Northumbrian region have passed mandatory standards for the last four years.

Since the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive came into effect in 2001, Whitburn North and Roker bathing waters have both also complied with the tighter Guideline standards of the Bathing Water Directive, seven years out of nine, including 2009.

The current operation of the Whitburn Bathing Water Scheme more than meets the health requirements of both directives and the Commission’s comments in regard to this are incorrect.

It appears that the Commission wish to clarify what constitutes heavy rainfall under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and is using Whitburn as a test case as data is readily available.  There are indications that this data may have been misinterpreted by the Commission.  The Commission is also preparing cases against at least four other western European member states. 

To date, the UK Government’s view has consistently been that the very costly and disruptive wholesale reconstruction of the country’s sewerage networks should not be imposed on the public as there would be little or no environmental benefit.

Notes to editors:

• The European Communities’ Bathing Water Directive aims to protect human health and the environment from pollution by specifying acceptable safe bacteriological standards at specified bathing waters.  The existing directive sets a mandatory standard which must be complied with and a guideline standard to work towards.  A new Bathing Water Directive will be in place for 2015 which will classify bathing waters as excellent, good, satisfactory or poor.  It is estimated that Whitburn North and Roker will qualify in the good or excellent category.

• The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive aims to protect the environment from the adverse effect of waste water and regulates the collection and treatment of waste water from homes and industry.  It sets uniform standards across the European Union for discharges from waste water treatment works.

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