A press release by the European Commission on 11 January 2000,inter alia, indicated its intention to initiate proceedings concerning drinking water quality problems associated with private group water schemes and the adequacy of national regulations, having regard to the requirements of Directive 80/778/EEC. Formal notification of proceedings has not been received in my Department. A record £420 million is being provided under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 for a vigorous rural water programme which is comprised of a number of targeted initiatives to improve water quality and protect vulnerable sources from pollution. On 27 March I announced details of a new capital grants package, involving a substantial restructuring of the capital grant assistance for group schemes. The revamped grant and subsidy package will facilitate the upgrading of quality deficient groups and the provision of essential water disinfection and filtration equipment. I will shortly make regulations to impose more specific and stringent requirements on suppliers, public and private, of drinking water to ensure compliance with prescribed quality standards.
The Commission initiated court proceedings in respect of the incomplete transposition of Article 7 of Directive 87/217/EEC on the prevention and reduction of environmental pollution by asbestos on 27 January 2000. This is now the responsibility of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. However, I understand that new European Communities (Protection of Workers) (Exposure to Asbestos) (Amendment) Regulations, 2000 (S.I. No. 74 of 2000), which implement Article 7, were made by the Tánaiste on 23 March.
Proceedings have been initiated before the European Court of Justice in respect of the failure to implement Directive 75/442/EEC, as amended, on waste, Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, and Directive 94/62/EC on packaging waste, with regard to the making of waste management plans. Ireland was originally given until 13 January 2000 to lodge a defence. The Attorney General's office, with the support of the Commission, formally requested an extension of time which would allow the now advanced waste management planning process to be fully completed. An extension to 24 March 2000 was granted by the court and a defence has now been lodged.