There is evidence that many of the slurry storage structures which were constructed under the Northern Ireland Farm Nitrates Management Scheme between 2004 and 2010, and which were built to comply with the requirements of the EU Nitrates Directive, are currently leaking millions of gallons of harmful pollutants into the watercourses that straddle the 310-mile border between Ireland North and South. Action from the UK authorities on these widespread failures of slurry storage in Northern Ireland has not been forthcoming to date, which constitutes a breach of the EU Nitrates Directive.
On 07 October 2020, Irish Member of the European Parliament Clare Daly of the Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, addressed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. Irish parliamentarian asked the Commission “will it investigate this matter, and take all enforcement action necessary to protect Irish and Northern Irish watercourses?”
On 18 November, the question was responded to by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, responsible for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, on behalf of the European Commission. In his response, he referenced the Nutrient Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019. SI 2019 No 81 that “set rules as regards storage capacity, distance to water and design and construction of storage vessels and as regards temporary manure storage on the field”.
Commissioner Sinkevicius declared that “it is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities to ensure that these rules are correctly applied”. He further explained that “the Nitrates Directive requires additional measures or reinforced action if it appears that the measures in adopted Nitrate Action Programmes are not sufficient to achieve the objectives of the directive”.
Finally, Commissioner Sinkevicius concluded that “the Commission is closely following the implementation of the Nitrates Directive, taking into account the evolution of the water quality data submitted by Ireland and the information that has been provided by the United Kingdom for the region of Northern Ireland, for the period 2016-2019” and that “any evidence showing that cross border pollution is occurring will be assessed”.
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