The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1990 implement Council Directive 86/278/EEC on the protection of public health, the environment and, in particular, soil, when sewage sludge is used on agricultural land. They prohibit the use of sludge from a waste water (sewage) treatment works and septic tanks being spread on agricultural land unless specified requirements are fulfilled.

Applying sludge to land

The Regulations also specify certain activities that are not permitted on land following sludge application, until prescribed periods of time have elapsed.

In addition, where sludge from a waste water treatment works is applied to agricultural land, the soil and the sludge must be tested before sludge is applied to determine the application rate, so as to avoid a build up of nutrients and heavy metals in soil. The sludge producer must keep a register of the quality and quantities of sludge supplied for use in agriculture, the details of the person and farmland supplied and the analysis and assessments carried out on the sludge and the soil to which it is applied. The occupier of the land must supply the producer of the sludge with information about the agricultural units on which the sludge was applied and how it was used.

Where sewage sludge is applied to non agricultural land (e.g. forestry), or where it is stored prior to application to any land, the activity is regulated under The Waste Management Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 (as amended) by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. A Waste Management License or Exemption (depending on the details of the proposed activity) will be required. More information can be found on Waste Management Licensing Exemptions page.


If you have any queries in relation to these regulations please do not hesitate to contact the Agricultural Regulations Team by email: or phone: 028 92633486 / 028 92623280

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