Defra says Ofwat claims for sludge market gains lack evidence

Defra a has questioned Ofwat’s estimate of the benefits from a sludge market and called on the water an waste industry to "create the evidence base and to engage with the Environment Agency on the risks”

According to the note on a January meeting of the Water 2020 sludge working group, Defra said there was “a lack of evidence around a regulatory impact assessment and benefits to make the case for legislative change around the co-treatment of sludge with other waste.” Ofwat estimates have the benefits of a sludge market at some £780m year.

Separately Defra addressed concerns about constraints on Defra arising from the UK’s departure from the European Union (Brexit). However according to the meeting note some delegates remained concerned that current environmental regulations could impeded the development a sludge market.

Defra confirmed that the current system of Environmental Permitting Regulations remained valid and flexible enough so that amendments were possible without the need for legislative change. The department said in the immediate term that might include an option of replying Environment Agency regulatory statements while in the long term amendments of EPR controls may be an option.

The working group is formed of stakeholders from the water industry, regulators and government.