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Sewage Outlets

Volume 300: debated on Friday 7 November 1997

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what criteria are used by the Environment Agency to decide whether a sewage outlet is high risk. [14039]

Criteria to decide whether an effluent should be considered "critical" are set out in the Environment Agency Discharge Consent Manual. These include cases where the effluent is contributing to non-achievement of a water quality objective (including those implementing EC Directives); where it may adversely affect water quality at an abstraction point for potable supply; and where it may adversely affect Sites of Special Scientific Interest or substantial fisheries.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many sewage outlets were not sampled by the Environment Agency because they were not deemed high risk in each year since the Agency's establishment. [14038]

Relevant information is not yet available for the period since the establishment in April 1996 of the Environment Agency. However, in 1995 the National Rivers Authority sampled 6,408 out of 7,429 sewage discharges with numeric consents and monitored 1,532 out of 1,786 water company sewage treatment works with descriptive consents. Intermittent discharges from combined sewer overflows, of which there are estimated to be some 25,000, are considerably diluted by rainwater and are routinely monitored by the Agency only in areas of exceptionally high amenity value. However, the design and construction of new and refurbished storm water overflows is controlled on a site specific basis by the Agency on the principle that the frequency of discharge should be related to the dilution available and the uses made of the receiving water.