§ Mr. French
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to receive the study into the environment and financial implications of the draft directive on municipal waste water treatment; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Chris Patten
I have now received the report commissioned from Consultants in Environmental Sciences Limited which assesses the environmental effects and the costs of treating all sewage before discharge to estuaries and coastal waters. On the environmental side the report does not identify any firm evidence that present policies have a detrimental effect on the marine environment but it nonetheless identifies environmental benefits that should accrue if sewage discharges were treated. On costs the report shows a wide range depending on the degree of treatment provided. The central option of secondary treatment for discharges to estuarial waters, and primary treatment for discharges to coastal waters has associated capital costs estimated at around £1.5 billion, and an associated increase in running costs of around £45 million per annum.
A key recommendation in the report is that a decision on future policy should be taken as soon as possible in order to maximise the return on the £1.4 billion investments already planned over the next 10 years to improve the quality of bathing waters.
The Government have considered the results of this study, and the views of other interested parties as summarised in the CES report. We have concluded that on the evidence provided a case can be made out for treating all substantial discharges of sewage. We have accordingly decided that in general municipal sewage should receive secondary treatment, but that primary treatment would be more appropriate for discharges to coastal waters, where it can be shown that this does not adversely affect the environment. The estimated cost of introducing this level of treatment is around 1.5 billion.
We intend that this new investment programme should be fully integrated with the programme to improve bathing waters and that it should be completed as soon as practicable. Discussions will be held with the National Rivers Authority, the Office of Water Services, and the sewerage undertakers to work out the detailed arrangements for implementing this policy.
Copies of the CES report are being placed in the Library.