asked the Minister for the Environment if he will make a statement in relation to the EEC directives on water quality and their implementation by regulations under section 26 of the Water Pollution Act, 1977; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Water Quality.
EEC directives relating to water quality come under two broad categories, those relating to discharges of particular pollutants, and those specifying quality standards for particular waters, for example, drinking water, fisheries and bathing waters.
I am satisfied that obligations arising from directives in regard to the control of particular pollutants can be met through the imposition of conditions by local authorities when licensing discharges under sections 4 and 16 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977.
In the case of the second category of directive, waters coming within the terms of the directives have been designated and monitoring is carried out by or on behalf of the appropriate local authorities. Results are forwarded to the Commission annually in respect of designated bathing areas, although this is not, strictly speaking necessary as none of our bathing areas is used to the extent envisaged in the directive. Results relating to waters designated for other purposes will be sent to the Commission in accordance with the provisions of the relevant directives.
While I am satisfied that existing arrangements are generally adequate to ensure the implementation of the relevant directives, I am considering the need for regulations under section 26 of the Local Government (Water Pollution) Act, 1977, which would prescribe national quality standards for waters and for particular effluents.
I urge the Minister to introduce those regulations. Will the Minister agree that clean water in the qualitative sense is a very important asset that we have? Will the Minister agree that we have been very tardy in regard to this in that we have not introduced the regulations although the Act has been in operation since 1977? Will the Minister agree that it is a matter of prime importance, having regard to our advantages environmentally, that we should not allow the quality of our water to deteriorate? This is a serious matter as far as we are concerned.
I agree that we should ensure that the quality of the water is maintained and, if possible, improved. That is one of the reasons why we are considering the need for regulations. It is hoped to complete that investigation shortly.
Will the personnel be made available to ensure the implementation of the regulations? The introduction of such regulations is one thing but their implementation is a different matter.
Substantial progress has been made since the Act was introduced. I should like to point out that although the Act is dated 1977 its provisions did not come into operation until 1979. It must be remembered that we are keeping within the spirit of the EEC directive and tests are submitted to the EEC regularly.
More inspectors are needed.
We will judge that when the regulations are introduced. There will not be any lack of will on the part of the Government. We all realise the importance of the quality of water.