THE UK government was this week trying to avoid being taken to the European Court of Justice over alleged failure to comply with European wastewater treatment regulations.
The European Commission has found 14 sites in the UK where sewage from populations of over 15,000 is not being adequately treated.
This contravenes the 1991 EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, which called for secondary treatment to be operational by 31 December 2000.
A fi l written warning was issued in mid January demanding that the UK falls into line.
If the Commission is not satisfi ed with the UK's response it will bring a case against the country in the European Court of Justice.
Nine of the 14 plants are in Northern Ireland and the fi al warning expresses concern that future planned developments are set to exacerbate the problem.
The Department of Environment in Northern Ireland refused to comment but the Department for Rural Development told NCE that work is under way to improve sewerage at the sites.
New treatment works in Larne and Omagh are due to come into service in October and a £16M works for Londonderry is due for completion in early 2006, said a spokesman.
Additional improvements to sewerage infrastructure costing £52M have also begun in Portrush, Portstewart Castlerock and Ballyclare.
In England, construction of new plants has been held up by planning issues. Just one site, in Bideford, Devon, is now compliant.