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North Sea

Volume 163: debated on Monday 4 December 1989

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143.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) by what date he intends to phase out the dumping of industrial wastes into the North sea; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he intends to allow the practice of dumping liquid industrial waste at sea after 31 December; and if he will make a statement.

The United Kingdom is fully meeting international agreements reached unanimously by the North sea countries.Indeed the United Kingdom is amongst the European leaders in demanding higher standards for the North sea. We are very conscious of the need to prevent pollution of our offshore waters. Eighty per cent. of riverborne pollution entering the North sea comes from rivers of Germany, Holland and Belgium.Ministers at the second North sea conference agreed that disposal at sea of industrial wastes should not be prohibited if there were no practical alternative means of disposal on land and if it could be shown to the Oslo Commission that the materials caused no harm in the marine environment. The Oslo Commission in 1989 agreed the procedure by which a country would show that a waste met these criteria. The Government have initiated this procedure in respect of three wastes which have been licensed for sea disposal for some years.The nature of these wastes and the problems faced in identifying environmentally acceptable alternative disposal options have been discussed at length in the Oslo Commission. At no stage has evidence been produced that any of these wastes cause harm in the marine environment. Detailed scientific work in the United Kingdom has shown that no harm is caused by sea disposal. Indeed, the presence of the wastes in the sea cannot be detected by the most sensitive means of analysis a few minutes after disposal.

No deadline has been set internationally for termination of sea disposal. However, the Government are seeking to end sea disposal of these wastes at the earliest possible time. Of the 20 licences issued in 1987 for disposal of liquid industrial waste at sea, more than half will not be renewed next year. The remainder will be terminated as soon as alternative means of disposal have been identified and implemented. The companies concerned are urgently working to develop land-based methods. The Oslo Commission agreed earlier this year that even when an alternative disposal option is identified a transitional period will be needed before sea disposal can end, to give time for introduction of the alternative arrangements. At this stage the final termination date for liquid industrial waste licences cannot be precisely identified, though it is expected that most will be terminated within about two years.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) when he received an application to dump 3,000 tonnes of a curing agent in epoxy powder in the North sea; and if he will make a statement;(2) when he received an application from Sterling Organics to dump 42,000 tonnes of paracetamol waste in the North sea; and if he will make a statement;(3) when he received an application from Fisons Ltd. to dump in the North sea 4,000 tonnes of waste from the making of asthma medicines; and if he will make a statement.

All three companies have for some years had sea disposal licences for these wastes which arise from production of medicines—which help asthma sufferers and relieve pain—and soap. These have been subject to annual renewal. Pending the completion of development and implementation of alternative means of disposal the companies have sought continued licensing as some of their products provide relief—sometimes life-saving relief

MaterialTonnage
January to June
Fisons PLCWash waters from the synthesis of Intal, a treatment for asthma and allergies6,000
Imperial Chemicals Industries PLCWaste from pharmaceutical manufacture6,090
Tate & LyleFiltration sludge from sugar refining33,000
Sterling Organics Ltd.Aqueous residues from preparation of paracetamol42,000
Orsynetics Ltd.Salt solution from the manufacture of O-tolyl biguanide, exported for use in paint and soap manufacture3,000
Fisons PLC1Distillation waste from pharmaceutical manufacture1,000
Formica Ltd.Phenol washings from laminate manufacture800
Fine Organics Ltd.Effluent from pharmaceutical production8,000
A. H. Marks Ltd.1Neutralised acetone/water mixture from formulation of organic chemicals999
BP Petroleum Development1Used saline drilling mud1,000
British CoalMineStOne150,000
British CoalMinestone150,000
CEGBPulverised fuel ash36,000 (part year)
CEGB,Pulverised fuel ash290,000 (part year)
2Solid waste from boric acid production200,000

—to asthma sufferers and pain relief to others. The procedures agreed for such cases by the Oslo Commission were therefore initiated for the Sterling Organics and Fisons wastes on 19 September and for the third waste on 5 October.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many applications he has made to the Oslo Commission for licences to dump industrial waste in the North sea in 1990; if he will list in each case the substances, quantities and companies involved; and if he will make a statement.

The Oslo Commission procedure, which is required in advance of the issue of national licences under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1935, has been initiated for three wastes, as follows:

MaterialTonnage
Fisons
Wash waters from synthesis of Intal—a treatment for asthma and allergies6,000
Sterling Organics
Aqueous residues from preparation of paracetamol42,000
Orsynetics
Salt solution from manufacture of O-tolyl-biguanide, exported for use in paint and soap manufacture3,000

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the licence applications he has received for dumping industrial waste in the North sea in 1989 (a) from January to June and (b) from June onwards; if he will list the substances, quantities and companies involved; and if he will make a statement.

Material

Tonnage

July to November

Chorley Bleaching Co. Ltd.1Waste from bleaching cotton100
ICI Chemicals & Polymers Ltd.Acid ammonium sulphate effluent from acrylics production165,000
AUied Colloids Ltd.Acid ammonium sulphate effluent from acrylics production.15,000
Woolcombers Ltd.Waste from washing wool999
Chlor Chem Ltd.Acidic effluent from production of water treatment chemicals1,000
Robinson Bros1Caustic liquor from manufacture of pharmaceutical intermediates70
British CoalMinestone1,250,000
British CoalMinestone525,000
British CoalMinestone525,000
CEGBPulverised fuel ash50,000
CEGBPulverised fuel ash500,000
Jackson's Fuel Co. Ltd.Washed sand7,500

1 Licences to expire by end of 1989.

2 Application not approved. Information on the applicant was received in confidence.