Environment and Heritage Service
Environment and Heritage Service
The Environment and Heritage Service was established
as an executive agency within the Department of
the Environment for Northern Ireland on 1st April
1996. The main responsibilities of the Environment
and Heritage Service include:
- the control of air, water and land pollution;
- the identification and management of sites of
nature conservation value;
- the management of country parks, countryside
centres and historic monuments;
- the protection and recording of historic monuments
- The Environment and Heritage Service is responsible
- protecting fresh and tidal waters under the
Water Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 (principally
through the application of consents for discharges);
- protecting marine waters under the Food and
Environment Protection Act 1985 by the issue of
licences for the disposal of wastes and other
substances at sea; and
- engineering works which may affect the marine
environment and for the discharge of radioactive
substances under the Radioactive Substances Act
The Environment and Heritage Service's
approach to setting discharge consents is broadly
similar to that in Great Britain. Discharges of
sewage and trade effluent, including cage fish farms,
are consented or in the case of Water Service discharges
Modelling studies are undertaken for new or upgraded
continuous sewage discharges to coastal waters in
order to determine the environmental impact of the
discharge and to establish the optimum location
for the outfall, and to ensure that at, at designated
bathing waters, compliance with the guide standards
in the Bathing Water Directive are taken into account.
For those discharges which fall within the Urban
Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Regulations, the appropriate
degree of treatment to comply with the requirements
of the Regulations will be the minimum acceptable.
These are set out in the Guidance Notes to the Regulations.
For discharges to designated sensitive areas, nutrient
removal may be required in the treatment process
and appropriate standards for nutrients will be
included in the discharge conditions. In determining
discharge standards, it is necessary to check that
EQSs for controlled substances will be met outside
any mixing zone. The Environment and Heritage Service
is also in the process of adopting the Association
of Directors and River Inspectors in Scotland (ADRIS)
Coastal Waters Classification Scheme which states
that no deterioration in quality class will be acceptable.
The highest priority in the classification system
is improving and maintaining water quality.
For intermittent discharges, the primary concern
is to limit their discharge under storm conditions
and their impact on water quality when a discharge
does occur. Discharge standards are set on performance
criteria determined from hydraulic sewer studies
and impact assessments on receiving water quality.
The impact assessment may be based on simple dilution
or spill frequency criteria, in complex situations
modelling tools are employed. The discharge standards
state the design conditions under which a discharge
is allowed to take place. This may be the pass-forward
flow in the sewer above which a discharge can occur
or relate to a spill frequency over a year or a
bathing season. Additional conditions, such as screening
storage, telemetry or other precautions to minimise
impact are included in the discharge standard. Further
details are set out in Annex 8 of the Guidance Notes
to the UWWT Regulations.
Trade effluents include those from industrial discharges
and from cage fish farms. There are few such discharges
in Northern Ireland and those that do exist are
small. In general, no modelling or mass balance
calculations are undertaken to determine consent
conditions. These are based on expert judgement
with the relevant EQS for controlled substances
used as a guideline to setting the consent conditions.
Consent conditions are set as absolute limits. Some
toxicity testing of effluents has been undertaken
but the Direct Toxicity Assessment (DTA) approach
has not yet been applied in Northern Ireland.
There are few cage fish farm installations in Northern
Ireland. The approach to consenting is based on
the requirement to comply with EQSs for controlled
substances and to ensure that the water column and
sea bed in the vicinity of the cage installation
is not damaged.
The Environment and Heritage Service is the competent
authority for the issue of licences for the disposal
of materials at sea in Northern Ireland.
The approach to the issue of licences is compatible
with that adopted by MAFF in England and Wales.
The Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland
(DANI) has responsibilities for agriculture, fisheries
and food in Northern Ireland. As such, the Department
is consulted in the discharge consent application
process about possible impacts on fisheries.