It's not only Spain: Europe urges several countries to improve their urban wastewater treatment
At the end of last February, we collected on the DAGA blog the ultimatum that the European Union gave to Spain for its breach of the legislation on Wastewater. The news was weighty considering that the directive to which the Spanish State had not yet fully adapted was 91/271 / EEC, approved in 1991 and which provided a margin of up to 10 years (2001), to adapt their municipal infrastructure. Months later, it has been discovered that not only is Spain the country that still does not comply with the regulations in their entirety, as several countries have recently received "notices" from the European Union (EU) in the same direction. And this is not just a couple of isolated cases.

Up to seven new countries warned by the European Commission

Directive 91/271 / EEC requires the EU Member States to collect and treat their urban wastewater before it is released into the environment to protect water quality and human health. In the case of agglomerations of 2,000 inhabitants or more, the treatment requires both the removal of solids and the decomposition of organic substances using bacteria. Something that is not being 100% fulfilled.

Last May, the Commission called on Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden to comply with the requirements of the said directive on Urban Wastewater Treatment and ensure its proper collection and treatment.

Starting with Belgium, the most recent information indicates that in 12 agglomerations in the country, not all waters were adequately treated. The case of Bulgaria would be more serious in comparison, since, according to recent research and observations, it does not have a collection system in up to 48 large agglomerations and does not guarantee that the urban wastewater from 69 large agglomerations that enter the collection systems is properly treated. Besides, there are up to 71 large Bulgarian agglomerations in which urban wastewater enters the collection systems and is discharged into sensitive areas without the total guarantee that they have been subjected to more rigorous treatment.

As for Greece, the data provided by the same State shows that urban wastewater is not collected properly in 289 agglomerations and, therefore, it is not properly treated before its discharge. Eight of these agglomerations pour into sensitive areas. In the case of France, non-compliance with the obligations of the Directive continues to be on a large scale, as it affects 169 agglomerations that dump into normal or sensitive areas.
In another of the warned countries, Poland, there are up to 1,183 agglomerations that do not have an urban wastewater collection system. Furthermore, in 1,282 agglomerations, urban wastewater entering the collection systems is not subject to adequate treatment before discharge. The country has also not guaranteed a more rigorous treatment of the wastewater that enters the collection systems and is discharged into sensitive areas in 426 urban agglomerations. A similar figure, the latter, to that registered in the Czech Republic, where up to 425 agglomerations do not have a collection system nor guarantee that urban wastewater entering the collection systems is subject to adequate treatment.
Finally, during the investigation of another case against Sweden for non-compliance with the Directive, pending before the Court of Justice of the EU, it was concluded that Sweden had incorrectly transposed several rules of the Directive, specifically, on the measurement of the parameters of treatment.

Consequences at different rates

Keep in mind that most of the agglomerations listed should have complied with the directive as of December 31, 2010, that is, almost a decade ago. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Commission has observed some progress in some cases, it has already admitted that it does not foresee "full compliance in the near future".

The same ultimatum that Spain received on February 12, 2020, has now been received by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, and Poland. These countries have just received reasoned opinions from the four countries from Brussels and have four months to remedy the situation. If the appropriate measures are not taken, the Commission may choose to bring them before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The cases of Belgium, Greece, and Sweden are slightly different since what they have received are letters of formal notice, and they now have four months to respond. Of course, in case of not responding and taking action, the Commission may also end up sending them a reasoned opinion.

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