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Mr. Morley: This information has been provided by the Environment Agency, and tables containing details of 203 sewer outlets which drain into rivers in Lancashire will be made available in the Library of the House.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many (a) air quality and (b) noise quality management areas there are in (i) St Albans and (ii) Hertfordshire; and how many there were in 1997. 
Within Hertfordshire, only two authorities have currently designated air quality management areas (AQMAs). Firstly, St. Albans city and district council designated six AQMAs in September 2002 in respect of the annual mean nitrogen dioxide objective. Following the further review and assessment which concluded that there had been an over-estimation of the levels of nitrogen dioxide, five of the AQMAs were revoked, which left one remaining AQMA close to the M25. Furthermore, following the second round of air quality reviews and assessments which started in May 2003, St. Albans declared two more AQMAs in November 2004; one area at the M1 junction 7 with M10; and the other comprising properties in London road, city centre.
The other authority in Hertfordshire, Hertsmere borough council declared 14 AQMAs in September 2001; 10 of which were revoked in 2003. Following the second round of reviews and assessments Hertsmere declared a further two AQMAs in January 2005 bringing the total to six in their borough in respect of nitrogen dioxide, all of which relate to local road transport.
DEFRA does not have an equivalent to the local air quality management system for noise; therefore no noise management area system was in place in 1997 or is in place now. However, legislation exists that allows local authorities to investigate and if necessary mitigate or control noise issues when they occur.
Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effect of poor air quality on the structure of historic buildings in St. Albans; and what steps are being taken to reduce air pollution in St. Albans city centre. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Defra has not assessed the effect of poor air quality on the structure of historic buildings in St. Albans. The effect of acid rain on materials has been studied by the then Department of the Environment through the National Materials Exposure Programme (NMEP). This was initiated by Building Effects Review Group (BERG) in 1987 and consisted of 29 sites. The UK NMEP was part of the International Materials Exposure Programme set up under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe framework. The UK continues to maintain sites in London and Lincoln as part of this programme. Details of this programme can be found at www.unece.org/env/wge/materials.htm.
In recent years concern for the effects of pollutants on heritage buildings has focussed on the multipollutant atmospheres found in modern urban areas. In cities such as St. Albans where brick is commonly used the main concern is the soiling of facades by particulates from vehicles. Details can be found at http://www.corr-institute.se/MULTI-ASSESS/
The pollutants that form acid rain are principally sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. These are released from the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The UK is a party to several protocols under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Pollution aimed at reducing emissions of acidifying gases. The UK has also agreed to meet emissions ceilings according to the national emissions ceilings directive. National emissions of sulphur dioxide have reduced from 3,721 kilotonnes in 1990 to 1,002 kilotonnes in 2002; and national emissions of nitrogen oxides have reduced from 2,771 kilotonnes in 1990 to 1,582 kilotonnes in 2002. These improvements are due mainly to reduced emissions from electricity generation, industry, domestic heating and road transport.
St. Albans city and district council has designated three air quality management areas in respect of the annual mean nitrogen dioxide objective which has to be achieved by end of December 2005; one of the air quality management areas designated in November 2004 comprises properties in London Road, central St. Albans and this relates to emissions from local road transport.
Once a local authority has designated an air quality management area, it has a duty to take action, along with other stakeholders, to work towards meeting the air quality objective(s). Where local road transport is identified as a major source of local air pollution concentrations, those local authorities are being recommended to integrate their air quality action plans into the local transport plan. St. Albans city and district council will therefore be working with Hertfordshire county council to take forward measures to tackle the emissions sources within the city centre.
REACH is a high priority for our Presidency. We look forward to progressing it in Council and building on the good work of the preceding
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Presidencies. We will explore areas of common ground on the key issues with a view to achieving political agreement at the November Competitiveness Council. We hope to continue working closely with the European Parliament, member states, the Commission and Stakeholders in order to explore areas of agreement. We must make sure that any agreement in Council is workable and based on an effective balance between economic, social and environmental considerations.
Mr. Morley: Ofwat's investigation is not yet complete. I am confident that the Director General of Water Services will complete a thorough and balanced investigation of the allegations and that he will take whatever action he deems to be necessary to protect the interests of customers and fulfil his statutory duties.
The Director General has mentioned to me his investigation into irregularities at Severn Trent Water. He has informed me that Ofwat have obtained a written assurance from Severn Trent that, if it were ever found that customers had been over charged, any necessary corrections would be effected in a prompt manner to be agreed between the company and Ofwat. The position of customers is therefore already protected.
Mr. Morley: Research undertaken for the Consultation Paper for the Review of Private Sewers in England and Wales published in July 2003 estimated that about 4 per cent. of properties nationally connect to entirely private systems. It was estimated that shared private sewers, which then discharge to public sewers further downstream, serve approximately 4045 per cent. of properties. Specific estimates for individual counties are not held.
Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what requirements there are on sewerage companies to accept delivered waste from cess pools and septic tanks for disposal at sewage treatment works. 
There is no statutory duty on a sewerage undertaker to accept delivered waste from cesspools and septic tanks. Services for the collection, transportation,
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and treatment of such waste are open to competition and are offered by sewerage companies and by other firms.
Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much sewage sludge has been licensed for disposal on farms in the Maldon District; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: The use of sewage sludge on agricultural land is regulated by The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989. These set out specific requirements to protect human and animal health and the environment, but do not impose any requirement to obtain a permit or licence.
Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what tests have been carried out on sewage sludge at Sheepcoates Farm, Great Totham, by the Environment Agency; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: Under The Sewage (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989 there is no requirement for the Environment Agency to undertake tests at specific sites where sewage sludge is applied. However we understand that the Agency has issued a formal warning following complaints about odours relating to sewage sludge operations at Sheepcoates Farm.
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