Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (as amended)

Applies to EnglandApplies to WalesApplies to Scotland

Title: Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (as amended)

Category: England, Wales and Scotland Regulations

Date: 1989 (amended 1990)

Reference: SI 1989/1263 [Full text not available] (1990/880)

General Description:

This has been amended by the Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Amendments to Regulations 1990. This act states that no person shall cause or knowingly allow sludge to be used on agricultural land unless the following rules apply:

(a) The sludge has been tested to determine its pH value, percentage of dry matter, organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus, and the concentration in milligrams per kilogram of dry matter of the following elements:


Limit of Detection (mg/kg of dry matter)















(b) The soil has been tested in accordance with the following rules:

(i) Where sludge has been used on an agricultural unit before the operative date and adequate scientific evidence is available as to the characteristics of the soil and the sludge used before that date. An assessment should be made as soon as possible after the operative date, of the pH value of the soil and the probable composition of the elements listed in (a);

(ii) Subject to (i) above, the soil of agricultural land should be tested, where sludge is to be used on that land for the first time after the operative date, as soon after the twentieth anniversary of the date when the soil was last tested or when the sludge producer is so requested by the land occupier or secretary of state, and not less than five years since it was last tested;

(iii) For each agricultural unit on which sludge is to be used 25 separate core samples must be taken either to the soil depth or to 25 centimetres (whichever is the lesser);

(iv) Each core sample should be tested to ascertain its pH value and the concentration of the elements listed in (a);

(v) The specified limits of any elements in the samples is set in this Table.

Unless the land is a dedicated site the average annual rate of addition of any element must not exceed that in the table above and also the level of any element within the soil must not exceed that in the table above.

The use of sewage sludge on soil is prohibited if:

  • The pH value of the soil is less than 5, or;
  • The land is to be used to grow or harvest fruit or vegetables (except fruit trees), or;
  • The quality of the soil and of surface and groundwater will be impaired.

If sewage sludge has been applied to soil then no animals shall be grazed upon it for a period of three weeks following the application. No sewage sludge may be applied to soil less than ten months before any fruit or vegetable in direct contact with the soil is harvested. Where sludge has been previously used on any land, other than by or on behalf of the sludge producer, then the occupier of the land must supply the following details:

(a) The address and area of land concerned;

(b) The date on which the sludge was applied;

(c) The quantity of sludge applied;

(d) The name and address of the supplier and the quantity of sludge supplied by them.

Every sludge producer shall produce a register containing the following information:

(a) The total quantity of sludge produced;

(b) In relation to sludge used for agricultural purposes the following-

(i) the total quantity of sludge provided;

(ii) the composition of and properties of the sludge as listed above in the first table;

(iii) the quantities of treated sludge supplied and the type of treatment;

(iv) the names and addresses of the people supplied with the sludge;

(v) the address and area of each piece of land on which sludge has been used, the quantity of sludge applied and the amount of each element listed in the first table.

(c) A copy of every analysis carried out on the soil of an land to which sludge has been applied;

(d) A copy of any advice given under the regulation below.

If the concentration of any elements mentioned above exceeds that in the table within the soil or would do if sludge was applied, then the operator must not use sludge on that unit of land nor sell or offer for sale any crop grown on that land.

The 1990 amendment Regulation makes it clear that the regulations only apply to agricultural land. Regulation 2(6) amends regulation 8 of the principal Regulations so as to make it clear that the prohibitions on growing commercial food crops in regulation 8(3) and on selling or offering for sale any crop grown on an agricultural unit which is part of a dedicated site, only apply where the concentration of certain metals in the soil exceeds the permitted concentration, as set out in the soil table in Schedule 2 to the principal Regulations.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Soil, Agricultural Pollution, Waste

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