EUROPEAN COMMISSION offi - cials were this week deciding whether to prosecute Britain for breaching the European Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.
The Commission was reviewing reports on 14 sites across Britain, which the Commission claims are late to comply.
Following a final written warning issued in January, Britain has sent a submission to the Commission explaining the work it is doing or has already done to meet the terms of EU law (NCE 3 February).
The directive requires that all wastewater from population centres with more than 15,000 inhabitants receive secondary treatment before discharging into water courses.
This submission is the UK's last chance to avoid prosecution in the European Court of Justice.
This could lead to fi nes of thousands of pounds a day per site.
Total compliance should have been achieved by December 2000 but the UK says it cannot achieve this until the end of 2009 at the earliest.
Four of the sites are in England. Work at one in Bideford is already complete.
By the end of 2007 a new £80M plant will clear up discharges at two more sites in Kent. Southern Water is seeking planning permission for a £200M works in Brighton which will enable it to comply. This cannot be completed until 2009 at the earliest.
Nine of the sites which missed the deadline were in Northern Ireland where investment is being raised to ensure secondary treatment at all works by the end of 2007.
'Water Service intends to spend £420M over the next three years on improving waste water treatment and sewerage networks, ' said Water Service Northern Ireland's director of development, Trevor Haslett.