Inquiry launched into UK nitrates pollution
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into nitrates pollution in the UK. The committee will consider the nature, scale and impacts of nitrate pollution on the environment and human life, and review the government's approach to the regulation of the chemicals concerned and its approach to reducing them.
Nitrates are damaging to the environment as, once they are released in water, they exacerbate the growth of algae, which leads to a shortage of oxygen in the water, and ultimately to dead zones where animals cannot live. Nitrates are mainly produced for fertilisers, but also come from air pollution, sewage and mining.
The committee said concerns have been growing on nitrate usage and pollution:
- In 2014, 78% of surface and groundwater bodies in the UK failed to meet the ‘good’ ecological status prescribed by the EU Water Frameworks Directive (WFD)
- In 2008, the EU gave the UK a final warning over its poor performance on nitrates
- In 2015, the EU referred the UK to the European Court of Justice for its poor wastewater collection and treatment
There is also a substantial amount of hidden nitrates stored in rock, which would vastly increase nitrate pollution if they are released into water.
Nitrate pollution is currently regulated by the EU. Experts have said this regulation will be at risk when European laws are rolled over into domestic legislation in 2019. The Environment Agency is responsible for regulating those who put nutrient pollutants in the soil.
The committee is calling for evidence on the scale of the nitrate pollution in the UK and the solutions the UK government should implement.
Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: "Healthy rivers are necessary for food production, water and the economy. Nitrate chemicals from farm fertilisers are building up in the ground beneath our feet. If they are released into waterways, experts warn they will devastate our marine life, our fresh water supply and cost billions to clean up. Our inquiry will look at the scale of the problem and what the government should be doing about it."
The committee is inviting written submissions on:
- What is the scale of nitrate pollution in the UK and what is the likelihood of the pollution getting worse?
- What are the consequences of nitrate pollution for the environment and for human life?
- How important are the different sources of nitrate pollution? Where should action be undertaken?
- How effectively does government regulate nitrate usage so that nitrate pollution is reduced as quickly as possible?
- Are other nations taking more effective action on nitrates that the UK can learn from?
- What more could Government do to reduce nitrate pollution as quickly as possible?
Written evidence should be submitted through the inquiry page by 5pm on January 18.
- Toxic chemicals from past may hinder river recovery Toxic chemicals from past decades could be hindering the recovery of Britain's urban rivers, according to a recent study... Read More >
- Plans for new Hampshire reservoir revealed Portsmouth Water has unveiled plans to submit a planning application to build a new reservoir in Hampshire. Read More >
- NDG issues drought permit warning The National Drought Group (NDG) has warned that drought permits and hosepipe bans could be needed in spring 2020 if... Read More >
- Reaching net carbon zero In summer 2019, the water industry committed to reach net carbon zero by 2030. This is a very ambitious aim and... Read More >
- Meeting AMP7 leakage targets Damian Crawford, head of smart networks & leakage at Stantec, discusses how becoming data-rich and knowledge-smart can... Read More >
- Rewarding excellence WWT content director Alec Peachey looks ahead to next year's Water Industry Awards. Read More >
- Delivering a smart network Tom Mills, senior director UK&I at Sensus, examines what a smart water network really means - and how to get there. Read More >
- A watershed moment for the water industry? Tessa Harding, director of water at Thomson Environmental Consultants, discusses the government's Environment Bill. Read More >