Northern Ireland

Ballycastle: Government in court over breach of EU sewage rules

Ballycastle beach Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ballycastle is one of 17 places in the UK where the authorities are not complying with EU sewage regulations

The UK government is being taken to court in Europe over breaches of EU rules on sewage treatment at a number of sites, including Ballycastle in County Antrim.

The European Commission is taking the case to the European Court of Justice.

It cites 17 places where the authorities are not complying with the regulations.

If the court rules against it, the UK will be forced to comply and could face a fine.

Northern Ireland Water is responsible for sewage treatment in Ballycastle.

The town has a permanent population of around 8,000 people, but summer visitors bring it over 10,000.

Under the regulations it is meant to have secondary treatment of sewage, where microbes are used to treat the effluent.

Ballycastle only has primary treatment works.

That means settling tanks are used to remove the sludge, before the effluent is pumped to sea.

Inadequate

The European Commission says the UK has been aware since 2005 of the need to address the issue.

In a statement, Northern Ireland Water said an upgrade for the Ballycastle works was due to be completed in 2017, at a cost of around £10m.

The other places where the UK is in breach include Stranraer in Scotland, where the existing system is also deemed to be inadequate.

In ten other places, where effluent is discharged into sensitive areas like freshwaters and estuaries, the system fails to meet more stringent regulations.

In Gibraltar, which is also on the list, there is no treatment works at all.

The court application will be lodged soon, and it takes around 18 months to get a judgement.

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