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23 Jun 2005 : Column 1122W—continued

Galapagos Islands

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps her Department is taking to help maintain biodiversity on the Galapagos Islands. [5881]

Jim Knight: The UK is currently involved in a number of projects aimed at preserving the biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. Since 1993 the British Government have approved a total of £1,087,561 in funding for 24 separate environmental projects. These include four current projects under my Department's Darwin Initiative, which funds biodiversity projects in developing countries using UK expertise in partnership with local organisations.

British embassy representatives in Ecuador also take part in regular Galapagos round table meetings to discuss issues relating to the environmental management of the islands. These are attended by major Galapagos donors and local government officials. The embassy also maintains close contact with the new British Director of the Charles Darwin Foundation.

Pest Damage

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will issue best practice guidelines to local authorities on their duty under S2(1)(a) of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 with reference to (a) the (i) nature and (ii) frequency of inspections required by the Act and (b) the training and qualifications of inspectors; and if she will make a statement. [4853]

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Jim Knight: It is for local authorities to decide on the most appropriate pest control programme in their own area, while having regard to their duties under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949. Therefore Defra has no plans to issue best practice guidelines to local authorities on their duty under S2(1)(a) of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949.

Radioactive Waste Management

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the responsibilities of (a) the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, (b) Nirex and (c) nuclear power generators for identifying long-term options for dealing with (i) high level and (ii) intermediate level radioactive material. [5888]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 20 June 2005]: The independent Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has been set up under the "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely" programme to oversee a review of options for managing the UK's higher activity radioactive waste, and to recommend the option, or combination of options, that can provide a long-term solution, providing protection for people and the environment. CoRWM is due to deliver its recommendations by July 2006. UK Government and the devolved administrations will then decide policy and its means of delivery in light of CoRWM's recommendations. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Nirex and the nuclear power generators are all free, along with others, to input their views and supporting material to the CoRWM option assessment process.

The role of the NDA is set out in the Energy Act 2004. It's purpose is to oversee and manage the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK's civil public sector nuclear legacy. Nirex's mission is

The owners of radioactive waste are obliged to make suitable arrangements for the management of their waste, according to Government policy and regulatory requirements.

River Thames (Pollution)

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many meetings officials from her Department have attended with the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the Greater London Authority since June 2004 to discuss the levels of raw sewage in the River Thames; [5266]

(3) what assessment she has made of the level of pollution in the River Thames; and if she will make a statement; [5275]

(2) how much raw sewage was discharged into the River Thames in each month since June 2004; [5274]

(4) whether the condition of water in the Thames breaches the European Union Urban Waste Water Directive; [5302]
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(5) what assessment she has made of the need for an interceptor tunnel in the River Thames; and if she will make a statement. [5319]

Mr. Morley: The objective of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is to protect the environment from the adverse effects of waste water discharges. The directive does not however set specific standards for the condition of inland and coastal waters into which waste water is discharged. Rather, it includes requirements to put in place sewage collecting systems, and sets standards for the treatment of sewage at sewage treatment works. Treatment standards and deadlines are set according to the size of the population served and the sensitivity of waters receiving the discharges.

The sewage collection system serving London is a combined system which collects both domestic and industrial waste water, and rainwater run-off. The directive acknowledges that it is not possible in practice to construct combined collecting systems and treatment plants to deal with all waste water during situations such as unusually heavy rainfall. Consequently the directive requires the limitation of pollution of receiving waters due to storm water overflows according to best technical knowledge not entailing excessive cost. The system along the tidal Thames has combined sewer overflows which operate to prevent flooding and sewage treatment works from becoming overloaded during wet weather.

The estimated volumes of sewage pumped to the river during some wet weather conditions in the following table are taken from pumping station records from the five largest pumping stations that discharge to the Thames Tideway. These are the only "overflow" points that have records of discharge volumes and are considered to be responsible for approximately 60 per cent. of the overflow discharges to the tideway in wet weather. The remaining 40 per cent. come from other pumping stations and gravity sewers. These percentages will vary considerably depending on the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall across London as well as other factors such as tidal state.
MonthEstimated volume (m(3))
June 20043,047,000
July 20041,260,000
August 20044,945,000
September 2004446,000
October 20044,290,000
November 2004304,000
December 20044,507,000
January 2005825,000
February 2005502,000
March 20052,052,000
April 20051,305,000
May 2005nil
June 2005324,000
June 2004 to present—16 June 2005:

The pollution of the tidal Thames by storm water overflows and compliance with the standards of legislation for continuous discharges is of considerable concern to this Administration.

Since 2000 Thames Water, the Environment Agency, Defra, the Greater London Authority and the Office of Water Services (Ofwat) have been involved in a strategic
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study of the environmental impact of intermittent storm sewage (sewage and rainwater run-off) discharges to the Thames Tideway. The remit of the study was to identify objectives for improvement, and to propose potential solutions, having regard to costs and benefits.

Since June 2004 five meetings of the Thames Tideway Strategic Study Steering Group have been held with my officials in attendance. The Greater London Authority representative did not attend one of the five meetings.

The strategic study has developed three principal objectives:

With regard to the assessment of the River Thames against these objectives the information can be found in the Thames Tideway Strategic Study Steering Group Report at Defra has not made a separate assessment of the level of pollution of the Thames.

We consider that the proposal arising from the interim report of the group for a large 35 km interceptor tunnel needs further investigation—it would take about 15 years to implement and cost in the order of £1.7 billion.

My officials and the Thames Tideway Strategic Study Steering Group are carrying out further consideration of the issues and possible appropriate smaller-scale measures which may be able to deliver needed improvements sooner than could be delivered by the proposed tunnel. The report of the further findings and options presented, which is expected soon, will be carefully considered by Ministers and a decision will be taken on an appropriate course of action to be taken to meet our obligations to protect the environment in a cost effective way. No options including the interceptor tunnel are being ruled out at this stage.

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