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Sewage Works

Volume 402: debated on Thursday 3 April 2003

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3.

If she will make a statement on the consultation on proposals for the statutory control of odour and other nuisance from sewage works. [106684]

The consultation ended on 28 March and we have received more than 100 responses from local authorities, water companies, professional bodies, local groups and members of the public who have experienced odour problems from sewage treatment works. My officials are collating the responses and I hope to be able to make a further announcement to the House before the summer recess.

Constituents of mine in Bromborough, who have long suffered from the problems associated with a landfill site, are now plagued with foul smells emanating from a waste water treatment plant. As my right hon. Friend will know, the loss of a test case by Liverpool city council against United Utilities effectively rules out powers of enforcement against odour nuisance. Can he assure my long-suffering constituents, who are now also threatened with ammonium nitrate being dumped in the vicinity, that his Department will act with all possible speed to find a resolution to the problem?

Yes, indeed—we want to get a resolution as soon as possible. In many parts of the country, water companies and local authorities, together with local residents, can and do tackle such issues in a pragmatic and speedy way. They do not need to wait for the outcome of the consultation or, indeed, for new legislation in order to behave in a sensible and grown-up manner in trying to deal with a matter that is a nuisance to local constituents. I am not familiar with the case that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will he happy to discuss it with him if he would find that helpful.

Castle Point suffers from bad odours from sewage plants, but also from Pitsea landfill tip and from the Coryton oil refinery, where there have recently been terrible odours. Will the Government make available specific funds for the excellent Castle Point borough councillors to monitor those odours and to deal with them?

Those responsibilities lie with the Environment Agency as well as with the local authority, and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman looks at what is available to both those bodies at the present time. The consultation deals specifically with the smells that emanate from sewage treatment works, so that is the issue to which I should respond.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a serious problem? I must declare an interest, because I live quite close to our local sewage works. The reality is that again we have a problem with United Utilities, which will not spend the money to provide a good sewage facility without any odour. Is it not right that we need legislation, and when will we get it?

I can understand my hon. Friend s concern if he is in close contact with the problem. Many hon. Members understand it through the experience of their constituents, but he has direct experience. These matters should be capable of being dealt with by a common-sense approach. We undertook the consultation because it was discovered that in some parts of the country—not many, but a significant number—problems were not being solved at a local level, and we want to deal with that as quickly as possible. I would encourage water companies, local authorities and local residents to get together to see whether such matters can be dealt with speedily and sympathetically at a local level.