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The Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994

Background | Main requirements | Sensitive areas |

  1. Summary

    The main objective of the Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive is to ensure that all significant discharges of sewage are treated before they are discharged either to inland surface waters, groundwaters, estuaries or coastal waters. These regulations are a major driver for capital investment in the water industry. In AMP4 (the 5 year period 2000- 2005) these regulations required expenditure of 1.2 bn. The forecast for AMP5 (2010-2015) is contining major investment of 537m (about 86 projects across England and Wales).

    For the purposes of the directive, significant discharges are those to fresh waters or to estuaries serving agglomerations with population equivalents (sometimes abbreviated as pe) of more than 2 000, or those to coastal water serving agglomerations with population equivalents of more than 10 000. Sewage will normally be treated to secondary standards. Discharges into areas defined as "sensitive" will require more stringent treatment. Among other things the directive also requires appropriate treatment to be provided for discharges from smaller agglomerations and has prohibited the discharge of sewage sludge to sea.

  2. Background

    The European Commission's (EC) draft proposal for a directive concerning municipal waste water treatment (later to be known as the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive) was published by the EC in late 1989 and adopted by the Council in May 1991. The Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 2841) simply transpose the requirements of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC) into UK legislation and adopt virtually the same wording. The objective of this legislation is two fold:

    • To raise significantly the standard of waste water treatment

    • To ensure common high standards across Europe

  3. Main requirements

    1. Provision of collection systems

      The sewerage undertaker (water and waste water companies such as Anglian Water) have a statutory duty to provide waste water collections systems. Most of these obligations have now been (or are being) implemented. The main deadline was:

      • by 31st December 2005 for every agglomeration with a population equivalent of between   2 000 and 15 000

      Despite it being 2009 these deadlines have still not been met in the UK and in some European countries. Perhaps the biggest project still outstanding is the 300m wastewater treatment works for Brighton and Hove. This has been extensively delayed due to difficulty getting planning permission. Construction is now starting with completion due in 2011

    2. Provision of treatment

      The regulations require the provision of secondary treatment plants except for areas of high natural dispersion where lower standards apply or sensitive waters where higher standards apply. Note this current government has decided that all waste water will be treated to at least secondary standards. The timetable for implementation is:

      • by 31st December 2000 (This deadline was also extended to 2005), in respect of all discharges from agglomerations with a population equivalent of more than 15 000. Note most are now complete except for a few sites such as Tintagel in Cornwall where 5m contract was awarded to Nutall in July 2009.

      • by 31st December 2005 in respect of all discharges from agglomerations with a population equivalent of between 10 000 and 15 000

      • by 31st December 2005 in respect of all discharges to freshwater and estuaries from agglomerations with a population equivalent of between 2 000 and 10 000

      Treatment for discharges to sensitive areas should already be in place (deadline was 1998 but it was subsequently extended to Dec 2008 .

      The regulations also ban the discharge of sewage sludge to sea and cover discharges of industrial water

    3. Sensitive areas

      These are defined as water bodies which are:

      • Eutrophic or liable to become eutrophic if no action is taken

      • surface fresh waters intended for drinking water abstraction with a high nitrate level

      • Other areas where tertiary treatment is required to fulfil the needs of other EC Directives e.g. Shell Fish Directive

      Note "eutrophication" means enrichment of water by nutrients, especially compounds of nitrogen and/or phosphorus, causing an accelerated growth of algae and higher forms of plant life to produce an undesirable disturbance to the balance of organisms present in the water and to the quality of the water concerned.

 

 
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