§ The Earl of Mar and Kellie
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether there is any risk to public health in Scotland from the practice of spreading partially treated sewage sludge on agricultural land; and [HL1921]
Whether they have any plans for investment in sewage sludge treatment plants in Scotland to replace the practice of spreading sewage sludge on agricultural land. [HL1922]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel)
Research commissioned by the Government and published by the Water Research Centre (WRc) in 1998 indicated that the highest potential risk to health from landspreading of sewage sludge in accordance with the relevant regulations and Code of Practice is in the "small" to "very small" category. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its report of 1996 has also stated that, "There are no instances in the UK in which a link has been established between the controlled application of sewage sludge and the occurrence of disease in the general population through food or water contamination".
The Government support the outcome of WRc's review and the discussions with stakeholders which has resulted in a range of precautionary changes in the requirements for the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land. The significant changes are phasing out all use of untreated sewage sludge on agricultural land by the end of 2001 and more stringent requirements for the performance of sludge treatment processes (with a distinction drawn between conventional treatment and advanced treatment) coupled with stricter post-application controls when conventionally treated sludge is used.172WA
All three Scottish water authorities have confirmed that they should meet the deadline of 2001 for the ban on spreading untreated sewage sludge on farmland. The water authorities are therefore planning investment in sewage sludge treatment facilities to comply with the Government's requirements.
From 1 July this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.