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Sunday Telegraph
26 December 2004
Judge Rejects Ingenious Recycling of Scots Sewage Christopher Booker's

In August I reported a bizarre case brought by Scottish Power before the highest court in Scotland, over its use of sewage to generate electricity. In 2000, at a cost of £65million, Scottish Water had built a plant at Daldowie, near Glasgow, to process half of Scotland's sewage into fuel pellets. These are used as a coal substitute by the giant Longannet power station in Fife to produce enough "carbon-neutral" electricity to power 30,000 homes.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) had approved this scheme as an ingenious and environmentally beneficial way to deal with the problem of Scotland's sewage. But this year, to general astonishment, Sepa decided that, as from December, it would become illegal under new EC rules. Sewage could no longer be recycled as fuel, but could only be disposed of as "waste".

This would naturally create huge problems, not least for Scottish Water. Its £65million Daldowie plant would have to close. And finding any other means to dispose of the sewage would now be extremely difficult, since, under a different set of EC rules, it can no longer be landfilled, used as fertiliser or dumped at sea, where it used to provide food for fish.

Scottish Power therefore sought judicial review of what appeared to be an insane decision, pleading that the European Commission now emphasises that it wants to see waste recycled to produce energy. A judgment had been expected in September, but in fact it was only last Wednesday that the judge, Lord Reed, finally came up with his ruling.

Lord Reed fully upheld Sepa's interpretation of EC law. However, he went further, pointing out that burning sewage could create pollution from heavy metals (an argument that not even Sepa's lawyers had thought to make).

There are, at least, grounds for appeal. If that should fail, almost the only means left to Scottish Water to dispose of sewage will be to have it incinerated, at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. In other words, it is all right to burn it, but only in a way which produces nothing useful.

Well done, Sepa and Lord Reed. And well done Brussels, for bringing us yet another of those "envronmental benefits" which Margaret Beckett likes to argue are the chief reason why we should all vote for the new EU constitution.

  So, not content with ignoring the environmental benefits of SWERF and wrecking the landscape with windfarms of hopelessly inadequate output at prodigiously subsidised cost, is this Government now determined to inflict yet another travesty of truly scatological proportions?
The Guardian
20 December 2004
Sewage Dumped in Thames Every Month Paul Brown

Raw sewage has been pumped into the Thames in London every month for the last four years, in far greater quantities than the government has previously admitted, according to new figures.
Although Thames Water has spent £1bn on improvements and claimed that the capital's river is the cleanest metropolitan river in Europe, the figures show that 240 million cubic metres of raw sewage have been emptied into the Thames since January 2001.
Although the Thames discharges breach European directives on urban waste water treatment, the Department for Environment has shelved plans to spend £1.5bn building a 22-mile tunnel to take overflow sewage from central London to sewage works at the mouth of the Thames.

Mike Tuffrey, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman on the London Assembly, said: "These figures are an absolute disgrace. So much sewage being pumped into the Thames is bad for the environment, bad for human health and bad for the image of both the Thames and London. The dumping of raw sewage into the Thames is something that happened in the Victorian era. It certainly should not be happening in the 21st century in one of the most developed capital cities in the world.
"There must be no more discussion, delay or dithering on building this interceptor tunnel. The longer ministers drag their feet in making the inevitable decision to build the tunnel, the more this will ultimately cost the taxpayer to build and more raw sewage will be pumped into the Thames."

The fact that large quantities of sewage regularly go into the river was highlighted during storms in August when a heavy downpour resulted in the deaths of 10,000 fish. The fish floated on the tide outside the House of Commons, watched by tourists waiting for boats at Westminster Pier.

In a Commons written answer last week the government revealed that every month since January 2001 large quantities of raw sewage have been pumped into the tidal Thames in London from the five main pumping stations. Last month was one of the lowest for discharges, when 304,000 cubic metres was pumped into the river -- but November 2004 was one of the driest months for four years.
In August, the month of the big fish kill, the total was 4.94 million cubic metres. The condition of the Thames was so bad that rowers were warned of the health hazard.

On several occasions during winter months in the last four years the total sewage dumped into the river has exceeded 12 million cubic metres of sewage a month. Thames Water, which has spent £4m on a study, has concluded the best solution was the establishment of the interceptor tunnel, but this would take about 10 years to build and cost £1.5bn. Funding it would cost £40 a year on customers' water bills.

The government has shelved a decision to a later date, despite the fact that the EU's urban waste water treatment directive, which the UK signed up to, bars the discharge of raw sewage into urban rivers and requires member states to do something about it.

In a statement, the Department for Environment said: "While the proposed interceptor tunnel might still emerge as the most appropriate long-term solution, the government has since decided that, bearing in mind the scale, the costs and the long implementation timescale, further consideration is necessary before decisions are reached."

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