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Coastal Pollution

Volume 171: debated on Wednesday 25 April 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he is taking to reduce the risk of excess nutrients building up around the coast.

Details of measures which will reduce inputs of nutrients to our coastal waters are listed in the United Kingdom North sea action plan. The decisions to ban dumping of sewage sludge at sea and to treat all substantial sewage discharges to sea will further reduce nutrient inputs by between 10 and 20 per cent.

I thank the Minister for that reply. What does he propose to do to prevent Welsh Water from redirecting sewage discharge from Cardiff bay to the Bristol channel should the bay development go ahead, as that will add greatly to the risk of eutrophication in the Bristol channel? The matter concerns hon. Members on both sides of the House.

So far, eutrophication has not been found to be a significant problem in United Kingdom coastal waters and has not increased significantly in recent years. However, the development plans to which the hon. Gentleman alludes will be carefully considered by my Department with that in mind.

Does my hon. Friend agree that while there has been a welcome across the broad spectrum for banning sewage effluent outfalls, it will be many years before we can provide alternatives because some of them are only just coming on stream, particularly in south coast areas?

My hon. Friend is right. It takes time to design such schemes and to obtain the necessary planning permission, but we have made an enormous commitment, and the water companies have a substantial investment undertaking, to put in place the necessary schemes. One reason why we are having to spend so much to catch up is that some of the companies languished for too long in the public sector.