Agriculture: Sewage

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent assessment they have made of (1) the impact of spreading human sewage on farmland, and (2) the adequacy of current regulation and enforcement of the use of such sewage.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

This is a devolved matter and the information provided therefore relates to England only.

Sewage sludge spread to land as fertiliser or soil improver can be a valuable source of nutrients. The recycling of sewage sludge to land remains a safe activity, provided it is carried out in accordance with the relevant regulatory controls and good practice guidance is followed.

Currently, water companies in the UK can spread sewage sludge under either the more commonly used Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (SUiAR) or the Environmental Permitting Regulations. Since the introduction of the SUiAR regulations in the 1980s, practices and treatment of sludge has changed considerably. To modernise this regime, in March 2020 the Environment Agency published a ‘Sludge Strategy’ which will review the safe use of sewage sludge. This strategy will enable better management of the environmental impacts of land spreading sludge, and modernise the regulatory framework surrounding the treatment, storage and use of sludge. Details on the strategy can be found via this link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/environment-agency-strategy-for-safe-and-sustainable-sludge-use/environment-agency-strategy-for-safe-and-sustainable-sludge-use

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