Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 524, 525, 526, 527, 528)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

503. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which Lough Foyle was first designated as coastal waters for the purposes of the EC Urban Waste Water Directive; and the guidelines that were used at the time. [8309/13]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

504. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the identification of the outer limits of estuaries here was subject of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency to his Department in 1995 when UK guidelines were accepted in defining Lough Foyle as coastal waters; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that in the UK this sea classification for the Severn and Humber estuaries was overruled in a judicial review in January 1996 against the UK DoE; and the reasons the EPA has not recategorised Lough Foyle as estuarine waters despite the repeated requests of local residents to do so. [8310/13]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

505. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the fact that if Lough Foyle is not reclassified as estuarine waters it will be subsumed into the Water Framework Directive in May of this year; the measures he will take to ensure this does not happen; and the measures he will take to ensure that this reclassification happens in a timely manner prior to final submission for inclusion in the WFD this coming May. [8311/13]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

506. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if during discussions between the Irish and British Governments regarding the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford estuaries, if the rules of environmental protection are being built into any proposed agreement; and if any proposed agreement will protect against the use of estuaries for polluting discharges. [8312/13]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

507. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether the Ramsar designation for the entirety of Lough Foyle based on the Ramsar Convention would be beneficial for the Lough and its surrounding communities; his plans to ensure this designation is awarded to Lough Foyle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8313/13]

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Joe McHugh

Question:

524. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the date on which Lough Foyle was first designated as coastal waters for the purposes of the EC Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive; and the guidelines that were used at that time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8833/13]

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Joe McHugh

Question:

525. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with reference to the identification of the outer limits of estuaries in Ireland as a subject of a report by the Environmental Protection Agency to his Department in 1995 in which the UK guidelines were accepted in defining Lough Foyle as coastal waters, and with reference to the UK's sea classification for the Severn and Humber estuaries which was overruled in a judicial review in January 1996 against the UK Department of the Environment and ruled that the proposals were not within the spirit of the directive, the reason the EPA has not revised the classification of Lough Foyle from coastal waters back to the very proper and historically accepted estuarine waters, despite the requests of concerned residents in the Lough Foyle area to do so. [8834/13]

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Joe McHugh

Question:

526. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his views on whether, if the current classification of Lough Foyle as coastal waters is not revoked immediately and returned to estuarine/transitional waters, this contentious classification and therefore the looser environmental protection of the Foyle estuary associated with it, will be subsumed into the Water Framework Directive in May of this year; if he will outline the measures that he will take to ensure this will not happen; if he will ensure that the relevant officials take immediate action to reclassify Lough Foyle as estuarine waters, prior to final submission for inclusion in the WFD in May this year. [8835/13]

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Joe McHugh

Question:

527. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with reference to the Ramsar designation for the entirety of Lough Foyle as a recognised and desired objective by the Ramsar Convention and its implications for such designation for both the Lough and its surrounding communities, the action he will take to assist in obtaining this designation for Lough Foyle. [8836/13]

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Joe McHugh

Question:

528. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government with reference to the ongoing discussions between the UK and Irish governments on the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford estuaries, if the communities around these Estuaries will be assured that rules of environmental protection are built in to any contemplated agreement which will protect against use of these estuaries for polluting discharges, when open water is adjacent, and in particular from diverting polluting discharges away from open water and into the estuarine waters under any circumstances. [8837/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 503 to 507, inclusive and 524 to 528, inclusive, together.

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requires Member States to establish the outer (seaward) limits of estuaries for the purposes of the Directive. In a February 1995 report to my Department, Identification of the Outer Limits of Estuaries in Ireland, the EPA, in consultation with the authorities in Northern Ireland, established the outer limit of the estuary of the Foyle river in that context. The objective criteria used in the establishment of these limits were geomorphic and chemical (i.e. salinity) factors. I understand that alternative criteria were used by the UK authorities in establishing the limits in the Severn and Humber estuaries.

The outer limit of Lough Foyle was subsequently used in the identification of the estuary as a transitional water under the Water Framework Directive and the remaining waters of the Lough outside this boundary as a coastal water, in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 7 of the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations, 2003. All surface water and groundwater bodies have been classified in accordance with these Regulations which give effect to the Water Framework Directive.

The Water Framework Directive is an overarching Directive that establishes a framework for the management of water resources in the European Union. It requires, inter alia, the achievement of good ecological status in all surface waters, the definition of which includes both transitional and coastal waters. As regards environmental objectives, the Water Framework Directive draws no distinction between transitional waters and coastal waters; there is no question of a looser environmental protection associated with the classification of water bodies as either transitional or coastal waters. The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive is one of the basic measures of the Water Framework Directive.

Discussions regarding the question of jurisdiction over the Foyle and Carlingford Estuaries are a matter for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I understand these discussions are ongoing. While resolution of the jurisdictional issues should further assist in the implementation of environmental law, including relevant EU Directives, there is already excellent ongoing cooperation between the authorities in both jurisdictions on matters relating to the environment, many of which are mandated to the North South Ministerial Council established under the British Irish Agreement.

The designation of sites under the Ramsar Convention is a matter for my colleague the nister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. I understand that Ireland currently has 45 designated sites (almost 67,000 hectares) under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. I also understand that Ireland’s priorities and resources in relation to site designations are currently focused on fully implementing the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive and the EU Birds Directive (EU Nature Directives).