28 March 1997

EU threat might lead to tighter dip dump rules

TIGHTER controls on sheep dip disposal are likely after the European Commission issued a threat to take the UK government to court.

Commission officials have sent a written warning of legal action to the Department of the Environment for failing to ensure dip disposal meets EU groundwater protection rules. If the UK fails to comply it will be taken to the EU Court of Justice.

The commission claims the UK has failed to apply the rules adequately because it does not require prior authorisation and investigation of dip disposal.

Ian Gardiner, NFU head of policy, said the warning was evidence that the commission was looking for tighter regulations.

"They are looking for firmer national regulations and clear evidence of it being applied," he said.

Mr Gardiner said the union would be writing to all sheep farmers, before the dipping season began, urging them to follow Environment Agency guidelines. "We much prefer to address this through sensible self-regulation," he added.

The Environment Agency is drawing up further leaflets on sheep dip disposal, which will be published next month. But it would like to see regulations imposed.

"We have been calling for information to be supplied to us by farmers on where and when and what type of dips they have been using and how they plan to dispose it," said an EA spokesman.

A MAFF advisory committee has suggested a mechanism for informing water regulators of the disposal of dips. But MAFF seems reluctant to introduce new legislation.

Roger Cook, National Office of Animal Health director, said the OP problem was negligible and did not warrant additional legislation. He said industry had introduced additives, such as lime and hypo chlorides, to neutralise the environmental dangers posed by dips.

And he stressed it would be too expensive to dispose of dips through commercial plants. &#42

Tony McDougal