The new regulations implement part of the 1987 EC Directive on asbestos pollution (ENDS Report 147, p 23). This should have been brought into force by 30 June 1991, and the regulations take effect exactly two years late. Implementing regulations were brought into force in England and Wales in 1989 but did not transpose the Directive as fully as the new Scottish rules.
The regulations follow the Directive closely in requiring that asbestos discharges should be "reduced at source and prevented", in so far as "reasonably practicable and using the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost, including where appropriate recycling or treatment." Specific conditions on liquid discharges from the manufacture of asbestos cement and paper and board products are then laid down.
The regulations go on to provide for the sewerage authorities to introduce specific limits on asbestos discharges in trade effluent agreements, if necessary by directing an amendment of the consent at their discretion.
The Secretary of State is also empowered to issue an order declaring an authority to be in default of its obligations under any of the regulations, and oblige him to make such an order unless the authority's failure to observe its duties was "of a trivial nature" or it has given an undertaking to comply with any measures deemed appropriate by the Secretary of State "for the purpose of securing or facilitating compliance with the duty in question."
For the specialist in EC law, a point of interest is the terminology of "securing or facilitating compliance". This has been used by Britain's water undertakers in undertakings to improve drinking water quality up to EC standards, but it remains to be tested whether this is sufficiently unequivocal to convince the European Commission that the absolute standards and deadlines laid down in Directives will be adhered to.