Since 1986 North West Water (NWW) has been involved in planning and designing major coastal sewerage and sewage treatment schemes to improve the quality of some 65 km of its extensive coastline. These schemes, notably those for the Fylde Coast, the Ribble Estuary and the Cumbria Coast, involve improvements for a population of around 555 000. Determining the appropriate treatment scheme for each of these areas during a period of changing national and international attitudes towards discharges to the environment in general, has caused a number of problems. In particular, the general movement towards a more precautionary approach to discharges to all sectors of the environment, resulted in extensive local debate about the adequacy of some of the early proposals, put forward to meet much more limited objectives. It is no longer acceptable for decisions to be based almost entirely on the technical merits of proposals but necessary to ensure that the requirements of local and national political opinion are taken fully into consideration. This can only be done by setting up suitable consultation mechanisms, with local interests and regulatory authorities, to ensure that the full environmental and economic implications of various alternative solutions are explored before any decision to adopt any particular scheme.

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