Dáil Éireann - Volume 534 - 05 April, 2001
Written Answers. - EU Directives.
Mr. Stagg Mr. Stagg
35. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the announcement by the European Commission on 25 January 2001 that it was taking the Irish Government to the European Court of Justice for non-respect of the 1976 Dangerous Substances Directive; if he will explain the series of events that led to this final action being taken by the Commission; the action he intends to take to meet the complaints of the Commission in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8598/01]
Mr. Dempsey Mr. Dempsey
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): European Council Directive 76/464/EEC of 4 May 1976, generally known as the Dangerous Substances Directive, relates to the prevention and reduction of pollution of waters by certain dangerous substances. The directive has been very substantially implemented in Ireland by the Local Govern ment (Water Pollution) Acts and related legislation on water quality, waste management and environmental protection generally.
The 1976 directive generally requires member states to establish an authorisation system in relation to discharges to waters; require that authorisations specify emission limit values in relation to dangerous substances present in the discharges; establish water quality objectives – standards – in relation to dangerous substances; prepare and implement pollution reduction programmes in relation to dangerous substances; and prevent any deterioration of water quality.An authorisation or permit system in relation to discharges to waters has been in place in Ireland since 1978 under the Local Government (Water Pollution) Acts and provides for the attachment of conditions, including emission limit values, in relation to discharges. The Acts generally prohibit the discharge, directly or indirectly, of polluting matter to waters other than discharges in relation to which a permit has been granted. All of the emission standards established under the directive have been transposed into Irish law by a series of regulations under the Acts and related legislation. In addition, water quality standards have been established under Irish law in relation to phosphorus and 14 other dangerous substances including certain pesticides, solvents and metals. Successive studies have shown that the main threat to water quality in Ireland is eutrophication of inland surface waters due to excess inputs of phosphorus, mainly from agricultural sources. A major catchment-based national strategy is in place to combat the eutrophication of rivers and lakes.
The European Commission agrees that phosphorus is the substance of main concern in relation to Irish water quality. The Commission takes the view, however, that Ireland has failed to give full effect to certain aspects of the dangerous substances directive including, for example, to establish water quality standards in relation to all the substances covered by the directive, to prevent an increase in the extent of eutrophication of surface waters subsequent to 1976 when the directive was adopted, to apply the phosphorus standards to all waters and to require authorisation for certain discharges by local authorities from sewers. While no formal notification has been received, the Commission recently indicated its intention to proceed to the European Court of Justice in relation to alleged incomplete implementation of the directive by Ireland.
My Department provided substantial responses to Commission in relation to Reasoned Opinions dated 12 June 1997 and 28 July 2000 on implementation of the directive. Further relevant developments of which the Commission has been advised include the making of the Water Quality (Dangerous Substances) Regulations, 2001 (S.I. No. 12 of 2001) giving further effect to Directive 76/464/EEC and complementing earlier Regulations made to specify water quality standards  in relation to certain dangerous substances. The Commission was also notified this week of the results of monitoring of waters carried out in 1999 and 2000 by the EPA which confirm that, apart from certain well-known exceptions, dangerous substances are not a problem in Irish waters. The exceptions include, for example, the localised pollution of the River Avoca by metals from mining activities in the past, now ceased, and the more widespread presence of phosphorus and nitrates in waters, mainly from agricultural sources.
Several member states have experienced difficulties in relation to the dangerous substances directive and have been held by the ECJ, in formal proceedings, to have failed fully to implement it.
My Department continues to identify, and take, such additional measures as appear to be appropriate to give fullest effect to the terms of the directive. This work will continue in particular in the context of the implementation of the water framework directive which came into effect in December 2000, this incorporates, and will in due course repeal, the dangerous substances directive.
Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 24.
Dáil Éireann 534 Written Answers. EU Directives.