Water pollution notices for N Ireland

Powers for the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland to serve notices requiring water pollution incidents to be prevented or remedied came into force on 29 January.1

The new powers to serve "works notices" are similar to those introduced in England and Wales in 1999 (ENDS Report 291, p 42 ). They apply to cases where polluting matter is likely to enter surface or groundwaters, and where it has already done so.

Notices may be served on the person who caused or knowingly permitted the polluting matter to be present. They can prescribe pollution prevention works or, where an incident has already occurred, require that the pollution be cleaned up and the waters restored to their preceding condition "so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so."

In England and Wales, the powers were used by the Environment Agency on 26 occasions in the first 20 months, with farms being on the receiving end most frequently (ENDS Report 312, p 10 ). A farmer has been fined £8,000 for failing to comply with a works notice (ENDS Report 323, p 56 ), and a pub owner £1,500 (ENDS Report 326, p 58 ).

The Northern Ireland regulations prescribe the content of works notices, the procedure for appeals, and the arrangements for compensating those who grant rights of entry to land to enable the works prescribed in notices to be carried out.

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