Discharge applications turned down

Posted: Tuesday 20th May 2008

Three applications by South West Water to discharge effluent into the Atlantic Ocean have been refused by Secretary of State for the Environment Hilary Benn following a public inquiry.

The applications concerned proposed discharges from Tintagel Fine Screening Installation and Bossiney Sewage Treatment Works inCornwall.

Objections to the applications were lodged by local resident group TAIST (Tintagel Against Inferior Sewage Treatment) who were concerned that the proximity of the villages meant their discharges should be considered equivalent to those of a single larger settlement, and should therefore be subject to a higher level of treatment than South West Water proposed. As a result of these objections the case was called in for a decision by the Secretary of State.

Hilary Benn agreed with recommendations made by the Planning Inspector, who conducted a public inquiry in 2006. In reaching his recommendations the Inspector took account of information and evidence provided by all parties, together with the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive and Government policy.

He found that Tintagel and Bossiney should be regarded as a single settlement with a population equivalent of over 2,000, therefore exceeding the threshold at which a higher level of treatment is required for coastal discharges. South West Water will now have to submit alternative plans.

Meanwhile, applications from Northumbrian Water to vary the treatment of sewage discharges from six sewage works in the north east will not be ‘called in’ for a decision by the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Sewage discharges to coastal waters must be granted consent by the Environment Agency and objectors to consent proposals can request that the Secretary of State call in an application for his own consideration if they believe that the Environment Agency has not addressed their concerns.

To qualify for a call-in, the proposed discharges must be of more than regional significance and must raise novel or unusual issues which have not been publicly debated in another context. The Secretary of State found that the Northumbrian Water applications did not meet these criteria.

Objections were made to Northumbrian Water’s proposal to change its existing consents of year-round ultra violet treatment at six sites to treatment on a seasonal basis, between May and September, to coincide with the bathing season. Secondary treatment of the effluent would continue to apply year-round. Objectors were concerned that reducing the UV treatment to a seasonal only basis would present a health risk to water users outside that window.

Having conducted its own assessment and considered the evidence from consultants appointed by Northumbrian Water, the Environment Agency determined that varying the UV treatment on a seasonal basis presented no risk to water quality at four of the six sites. However it considered that at two sites, Howdon and Marske, there would be a potential risk to water quality. The Agency has therefore recommended that, to protect the wellbeing of water users, year-round UV treatment should continue at Marske, and seasonal variation at Howdon must be extended from the beginning of April to the end of November.

The Secretary of State is satisfied with the Environment Agency’s assessment of the water quality impact, and with the precautions it has proposed to protect water users. His decision not to intervene means that the Agency will now issue the variations of consents for four sites, issue a revised consent for Howdon, and refuse the application for Marske.

The Environment Agency’s decision document is available at www.environment-agency.gov.uk

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