Tag Archives: Pollution from agricultural sources

Use of sewage sludge in agriculture

Use of sewage sludge in agriculture

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Use of sewage sludge in agriculture

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Agriculture > Environment

Use of sewage sludge in agriculture

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 86/278/EEC of 12 June 1986 on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture [See amending acts].

Summary

Sewage sludge has valuable agronomic properties in agriculture. In using sewage sludge account must be taken of the nutrient needs of the plants without, however, impairing neither the quality of the soil nor that of surface and ground water. Some heavy metals present in sewage sludge may be toxic to plants and humans.

Sewage sludge may be used in agriculture provided that the Member State concerned regulates its use.

The Directive lays down limit values for concentrations of heavy metals in the soil (Annex IA), in sludge (Annex IB) and for the maximum annual quantities of heavy metals which may be introduced into the soil (Annex IC).

The use of sewage sludge is prohibited if the concentration of one or more heavy metals in the soil exceeds the limit values laid down in accordance with Annex IA. The Member States must therefore take the necessary steps to ensure that those limit values are not exceeded as a result of using sludge.

Sludge must be treated before being used in agriculture but the Member States may authorise the use of untreated sludge if it is injected or worked into the soil.

The use of sludge is prohibited:

  • on grassland or forage crops if the grassland is to be grazed or the forage crops to be harvested before a certain period has elapsed (this period, fixed by the Member States, may not be less than three weeks);
  • on fruit and vegetable crops during the growing season, with the exception of fruit trees;
  • on ground intended for the cultivation of fruit and vegetable crops which are normally in direct contact with the soil and normally eaten raw, for a period of ten months preceding the harvest and during the harvest itself.

Sludge and soil on which it is used must be sampled and analysed.

Member States must keep records registering:

  • the quantities of sludge produced and the quantities supplied for use in agriculture;
  • the composition and properties of the sludge;
  • the type of treatment carried out;
  • the names and addresses of the recipients of the sludge and the places where the sludge is to be used.

Where conditions so demand, Member States may take more stringent measures than those provided for in this Directive.

Five years after notification of this Directive, and every four years thereafter, Member States must produce a consolidated report on the use of sludge in agriculture, specifying the quantities used, the criteria followed and any difficulties encountered. They must forward the report to the Commission, which will publish the information contained in it.

In the light of that report the Commission will, if necessary, submit appropriate proposals for increased protection of the soil and the environment.

References

Act Entry into force – Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 86/278/EEC

18.6.1986

18.6.1989

OJ L 181 of 4.7.1986

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal

Directive 91/692/EEC

23.12.1991

1.1.1993

OJ L 377 of 31.12.1991

Regulation (EC) No 807/2003

5.6.2003

OJ L 122 of 16.5.2003

Regulation (EC) No 219/2009

20.4.2009

OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 86/278/EEC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated versionis of documentary value only.

Related Acts

Report from the Commission of 20 November 2009 on implementation of the community waste legislation Directive 2006/12/EC on waste, Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, Directive 75/439/EEC on waste oils, Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge, Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste and Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment for the period 2004-2006 [COM(2009) 633 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Since the adoption of the Directive on sewage sludge more than 20 years ago, no implementation problems have been reported. However there are signals that the Directive may be too limited in scope and lack ambition. Several Member States have enacted and implemented stricter limit values for heavy metals and set requirements for other contaminants. The Commission impact assessment will evaluate whether more stringent measures should be put in place and look into a possibility of extending the scope of the Directive to other types of sludges and applications other than agriculture.

Report from the Commission of 19 July 2006 on implementation of the Community waste legislation: Directive 75/442/EEC, Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, Directive 75/439/EEC on waste oils, Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge, Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste and Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste for the period 2001-2003 [COM(2006) 406 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
According to this report, several Member States have set concentration limits at levels below those in the Directive. In addition, average concentrations of heavy metals in sludge used in agriculture are significantly lower than those specified in the Directive. Most EU-15 Member States registered an increase in sludge generation. Seven Member States report using at least 50% of the sludge they generate in agriculture. The Commission considers that using sewage sludge as fertiliser on agricultural soils remains one of the best environmental options, provided it poses no threat to the environment or to animal and human health.

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 19 May 2003 on the implementation of Community waste legislation, in particular Directive 75/442/EEC on waste, Directive 91/689/EEC on hazardous waste, Directive 75/439/EEC on waste oils, Directive 86/278/EEC on sewage sludge and Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, for the period 1998-2000 [COM(2003) 250 final Not published in the Official Journal].

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 10 January 2000 on the implementation of Community waste legislation for the period 1995-1997 (Directives 75/442/EEC, 91/689/EEC, 75/439/EEC and 86/278/EEC) [COM(1999) 752 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission notes in this report that there were no major problems in the formal transposition of Directive 86/278 on sewage sludge into national law. The Directive has been successful in preventing crop contamination by pathogens caused by the use of sludge on agricultural soils. However, few Member States have very high sludge reuse rates. As the Commission foresees an increase of about 40 % of sludge production by 2005, it seems appropriate to completely revise the provisions of the Directive.

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament of 27 February 1997 concerning the application of Directives 75/439/EEC, 75/442/EEC, 78/319/EEC and 86/278/EEC on waste management [COM(97) 23 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
As Directive 86/278/EEC was published on 17 June 1986, the Member States had to draw up their first report by 17 June 1991. Only six Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France and the United Kingdom) sent their 1991/1992 report. A second report covering the years 1991-1994 should have been submitted by 17 June 1995.
The Commission’s analysis covers the period 1991-1994 on the basis of the reports submitted by five Member States (Belgium, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Portugal).
The report notes that some Member States have failed to adopt all the national measures needed to transpose this Directive. As a result, Belgium in particular was sentenced by the Court of Justice (judgment of 3 May 1994, Case C-260/93) for failing to transpose the Directive.
Following the adoption of Directive 91/692/EEC standardising and rationalising reports on the implementation of certain Directives relating to the environment, the Commission adopted a standard questionnaire for drawing up these reports, first used for the 1991-1994 report. The report outlines the state of play regarding national laws and the minimum limit values set by the five Member States which submitted their report. The Commission feels that, under the current circumstances, it is difficult to draw final conclusions as the reports of several Member States are missing and some of the reports submitted were incomplete. However, it is of the view that the Directive was, on the whole, well implemented as regards the permitted concentration of heavy metals in sludge for use in agriculture, as the level is in general lower than the limit values laid down in Annex I B to the Directive.

Agricultural nitrates

Agricultural nitrates

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Agricultural nitrates

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Agriculture > Environment

Agricultural nitrates

Document or Iniciative

Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources [See amending act(s)].

Summary

Directive 91/676/EEC (henceforth referred to as the Nitrates Directive aims to protect waters in Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources from polluting groundwater and surface waters by encouraging the use of good agricultural practices.

The Nitrates Directive is an integral part of the Water Framework Directive and is one of the key instruments for protecting water against agricultural pressures.

The implementation of the Directive will be carried out in a number of stages. Member States shall:

  • identify surface water and groundwater affected by pollution or at risk of being so, based on procedures and criteria detailed in the Directive (specifically when the concentration of nitrates in groundwater or surface water reaches 50 mg/l or when the surface water is eutrophic or is at risk of being so);
  • designate vulnerable zones, which are all known areas of land in their territories which drain into surface waters and groundwater which are affected by pollution or at risk of being so. The Nitrates Directive provides a possibility for Member States to be exempted from the requirement to designate vulnerable zones if the action programmes are applied to the whole of their national territory;
  • establish a code of good agricultural practice to be implemented by farmers on a voluntary basis, which shall include the measures detailed in Annex II to the Directive;
  • set up compulsory action programmes to be implemented by all farmers who work in vulnerable zones. These programmes must contain the measures listed in the good agricultural practice codes, as well as the additional measures listed in Annex III to the Directive, which aim to limit the land application of mineral and organic fertilisers containing nitrogen, as well as land application of livestock manure.

The Directive authorises Member States to take additional measures or to reinforce their action programmes in order to achieve the objectives of the Directive.

Member States must monitor water quality, applying standardised reference methods to measure the nitrogen-compound content.

The Commission has provided Member States with recommendations on monitoring methods and on the information which must be included in their reports on the application of this Directive. These reports shall be submitted by Member States to the Commission every four years.

Context

Water pollution by nitrates has been made worse by the introduction of intensive farming methods, with increased use of chemical fertilisers and higher concentrations of animals in smaller areas.

Nitrate pollution is causing problems in all Member States. The sources of nitrate pollution are diffuse (multiple discharges which are difficult to locate).

The 1980s saw a progressive worsening of water quality owing to the growth of intensive livestock farming (chickens, pigs) in areas that were already saturated, and of intensive crop-growing involving the use of chemical weedkillers and overfertilisation.

The 1988 Frankfurt Ministerial Conference examined water protection legislation. The participants stressed that the legislation needed improving, and this resulted in the adoption of the Directive on Urban Waste Water and the Nitrates Directive.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 91/676/EEC

19.12.1991

20.12.1993

OJ L 375 of 31.12.1991

DEROGATIONS TO THE ACT

The Nitrates Directive provides the possibility for an exemption from the rule on the maximum quantity of 170 kg of nitrates per hectare and per year allowed for land application of livestock manure, on the condition that it can be established that the objectives of the Directive are still met and that the exemption is based on objectives criteria such as long growing seasons, crops with high nitrogen uptake, high net precipitation or soils with high denitrification capacity. The Commission shall decide whether to grant an exemption or not, based on advice provided by the Nitrates Committee who assists the Commission in the implementation of the Directive. The prerequisites for any exemption are the appropriate designation of nitrate vulnerable zones and action programmes which fully comply with the Directive. Furthermore, the exemption is only valid for the duration of the action programme.

List of exemptions granted:

Decision 2005/880/EC [Official Journal L 324 of 10.12.2005]
Extension of validity by:
Decision 2010/65/EU [Official Journal L 35 of 6.2.2010].
This exemption has been granted to the Netherlands until 31 December 2013.

Decision 2006/1013/EC [Official Journal L 382 of 28.12.2006]
Extension of validity by:
Decision 2009/753/EC [Official Journal L 268 of 13.10.2009].
This exemption has been granted to Germany until 31 December 2013.

Decision 2007/697/EC [Official Journal L 284 of 30.10.2007].

Extension of validity by:
Decision 2011/127/EU [Official Journal L 51 of 25.2.2011].
This exemption has been granted to Ireland. It is applicable until 31 December 2013.

Decision 2007/863/EC [Official Journal L 337 of 21.12.2007].

Extension of validity by:
Decision 2011/128/EU [Official Journal L 51 of 25.2.2011].


This exemption has been granted to the United Kingdom for Northern Ireland. It is applicable until 31 December 2014.

Decision 2008/64/EC [Official Journal L 16 of 19.1.2008].

Extension of validity by:
Decision 2011/489/EU [Official Journal L 200 of 3.8.2011].
This exemption has been granted to Belgium for Flanders. It is applicable until 31 December 2014.

Commission implementing Decision 2011/721/EU [Official Journal L 287 of 4.11.2011].

This exemption has been granted to Italy for the regions of Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Piemonte and Veneto. It is applicable until 31 December 2015.

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 1882/2003

20.11.2003

OJ L 284 of 31.10.2003

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008

11.12.2008

OJ L 311 of 21.11.2008

The successive amendments and corrigenda to Directive 91/676/EEC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated versionis for reference only.

Related Acts

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on implementation of Council Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources based on Member State reports for the period 2004 – 2007 [COM(2010) 47 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
This Report is based on the information provided by the 27 Member States. 66 % of the groundwater quality monitoring stations showed stable or decreasing nitrate concentrations. However, 15 % of stations showed nitrate concentrations above the quality threshold of 50 mg per litre. The highest concentration of nitrates lies between 5 and 15 metres below the surface.
The quality of action programmes further improved as compared with the last reporting period in the EU 15. All new Member States established action programmes. In order to attain full compliance with the requirements of the Nitrates Directive, improvements are required, particularly with regards to storage construction, balanced fertilisation and establishment of periods during which land application is banned. In order to improve the implementation of programmes, better information for farmers and the application of efficient control programmes are essential.