Europe issues legal warning

Image of sewage flowing into the sea
Raw sewage is discharged around much of Northern Ireland's coast

The European Commission has confirmed it has begun legal action against the UK Government over Northern Ireland's continuing failure to comply with sewage law.

Over the past few years Friends of the Earth has made a string of complaints to the European Commission on Northern Ireland's dismal environmental protection record.

The record includes:

  • Inadequate sewage treatment
  • Illegal and poorly controlled landfill sites
  • Trashing wildlife sites
  • Development at any cost approach to planning

The Commission is particularly concerned about sewage works which discharge into Lough Neagh and Lough Erne. These areas require the highest level of treatment, but a significant number of works provide inadequate treatment, leading to eutrophication, nutrient enrichment, of both inland and coastal waters.

The Government is inviting the wrath of Europe by approving developments in pollution hotspots

Europe is also asking questions about the policy of allowing unfettered development in areas in breach of sewage law. Such developments could exacerbate the existing sewage pollution problem.

The topsy-turvy policy dates back to October 2002 when the then Environment Minister, Dermot Nesbitt MLA, instructed Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) not to object to planning applications on grounds of sewage pollution.

This gagging of EHS turned the planning process on its head and meant that those areas most in need of protection were afforded the least.

Direct rule Minister, Angela Smith MP, has continued the policy despite several warnings from Friends of the Earth that she is acting illegally.

Angela Smith, now has no choice but to ban housing development in these sewage pollution hotspots. To do otherwise would be to invite the wrath of the European Court in the form of enormous fines