United Kingdom
Air pollution, Declaratory Relief, Permits, Licences, Standing, Damages, Jurisdiction, Civil
The Claimant, United Utilities Water Plc, is a statutory water and sewerage undertaker within the meaning of the Water Industry Act 1991. It claims in this action declarations from the Court to the effect that it is not required to secure from the Defendant, permits pursuant to the Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 in respect of work performed at six of its waste water treatment plants in the North-West of England. The aim of the PPC Regulations, based on the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive is to provide an integrated approach to pollution control to prevent emissions into air, water or soil wherever practicable. United Utilities sought to argue that the water industry was already heavily regulated by the Water Industry Act 1991 and the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (to name but a few), and that Parliament cannot have intended the water industry to comply additionally with the PPC regime which would be "unnecessarily costly and confusing United Utilities therefore sought a declaration from the Court in respect of six "test case" waste water treatment plants as to the following issues: Did the PPC Regulations apply to the waste water treatment activities? Is sewage sludge 'waste'? Is the treatment of sewage sludge covered by the PPC Regulations and the IPPC Directive? Is the treatment of beer and milk effluent from third party brewing and milk processing activities already regulated under PPC, covered by the PPC Regulations? the Court held that the scope of the PPC Regulations should not be limited by the existence of other relevant and applicable legislation and that the PPC Regulations were intended to apply to waste water treatment activities. Furthermore, the Court ruled that there could be no doubt that sewage sludge is waste, and that urban waste water containing sludge is 'waste in liquid form'. The Judge went on to conclude that even if he was wrong in deciding that sludge was waste in liquid form – as opposed to 'waste water' as argued by United Utilities – it would still be covered by the PPC Regulations, since he considered that it was not already adequately covered by other legislation. Four of the six plants were intermediate treatment plants that discharged sludge to a final processing plant. The Court ruled that the aims behind the IPPC Directive and the Waste Framework Directive could not be achieved if the intermediate treatment processes were excluded from PPC control. The PPC Regulations were held to apply unless the end product from the treatment process is sent for recovery. Recovery operations are not subject to the PPC Regulations, although they are usually covered by the waste management controls in their own right. The other remaining two treatment plants processed trade effluent from brewing and milk processing plants that were operated by third parties. It was common ground between the parties that the brewing and milk processing plants themselves came within the PPC Regulations. However, the issue for the Court in this context was whether the waste water treatment plants operated by United Utilities were a "directly associated activity" which had a "technical connection with the activity being carried out at the stationary technical unit". Whether the treatment plants were "directly associated activities" depended on whether they were on the same site as the primary activity. The Court ruled that it must be a question of fact in any individual case as to whether the directly associated activity was being carried out on the "same site". The two treatment plants that United Utilities had selected for the purposes of this test case were connected by pipeline over distances of 800 and 700 metres respectively. The Judge decided that on the facts the distances in this case were too great for the treatment plants to be considered on the same site.