Editorial Containment News – September 2018   Two years on from the vote to leave the EU the lack of clarity on even the most basic elements of the uncoupling are not comforting for the potential impact leaving will have on our environmental regulations.  Initial fears of a ‘bonfire’ of environmental legislation and ‘watered down’ regulations have eased somewhat, however, the 1970’s spectre of the UK as the ‘dirty man of Europe’ still haunts the dreams of environmentalists. A recent report “The State of Our Waters” by the European Environment Agency (EEA) will do little to facilitate a restful night’s sleep. Despite the strict EU laws only 40% of the superficial water bodies surveyed were found in a good ecological state, more than 60 per cent contained levels of mercury that exceed EU limits. Shamefully England was one of the poorest performers. The report, which covers the 2010 to 2015 period, and monitored 130,000 waterways across Europe has led experts to claim that the findings show the EU is unlikely to achieve its biodiversity goals by 2020.

Precise comparisons are difficult as reporting methodologies vary across Europe but water quality in England was in the bottom half of the European table, and had deteriorated since the last stocktake in 2010.

Peter Kristensen, the report’s lead author told the Guardian that higher population densities, more intensive agricultural practices, and better monitoring of waterways had all contributed to the result.  “England is comparable to countries in central Europe with a high proportion of water bodies failing to reach good status,” he said. “The situation is much better in Scotland, where only around 45% of sites failed [to meet minimum standards].”  “It would be advisable for England to continue with legislation similar to the water framework directive after Brexit,” he added.

The EU’s Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said there had been a slight improvement in freshwater quality since 2010, “but much more needs to be done before all lakes, rivers, coastal waters and groundwater bodies are in good status,” he added “tackling pollution from agriculture, industry and households requires joint efforts from all water users throughout Europe.”

Andreas Baumueller, WWF Europe’s head of natural resources said “The legislation is there in the form of the EU’s Water Framework Directive, but the political will is clearly lacking to make it work on the ground.”  The positives and negatives of the past 45 years of Britain’s membership of the EU would take at least another 40 years to unravel, analyse and evaluate.  However, one area that I believe is hard to dispute is that the environment has benefited greatly from having a Europe-wide benchmark and an ‘outside’ wider perspective view on pollution. This timely report is a very clear warning that more effort is still needed and that any possibility that UK standards might be allowed to slip without regulations at least as strict as those which currently govern us is something which should haunt the dreams of us all.

Phil Bremner  Editor:  Containment News, Flood News, Wireless eNews & LPRA eNews  CONTACT

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