Row over pollution list of shame.
Birmingham has been 'named and shamed' as one of the worst polluters in Europe as a war of words broke out yesterday between the European Union and the British Government.
EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom pointed the finger at 33 towns and cities across the country which she claimed were failing to provide acceptable waste-water treatment.
However, the Government said she had misinterpreted scientific data - and that the UK was being unfairly singled out.
Although 15 EU countries were accused of failing to provide acceptable treatment, the UK was said to have more offending towns and cities than anywhere else.
Severn Trent Water, which is responsible for water treatment in Birmingham, said it 'strongly disagreed' with the accusations.
Mrs Wallstrom said the cities she had named were failing to conform to the EU Urban Wastewater Directive, ten years after it was passed.
By 1998, towns or cities with a population of more than 10,000 were supposed to be treating all polluted water they discharge into rivers or environmentally sensitive areas.
By the end of last year, anywhere with more than 15,000 inhabitants should also have introduced secondary treatment systems, which removes pollution dissolved in the water.
Birmingham was named as a city where polluted water was being treated, but inadequately. It fares better than some others, including Hull and Brighton, where Mrs Wallstrom claimed water was not treated at all.
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, said it disagreed with the Commission's suggestion.
'We have informed the Commission that we consider the report misinterprets the data, and shows only a partial understanding of the action the UK has taken to protect waters,' he said.