The European Commission is taking Greece to Court over a failure to ensure that waste water is properly treated. In the EU, Member States need adequate collection and treatment systems for urban waste water, as untreated water poses risks to human health, inland waters and the marine environment. Greece was first warned in 2010 about this particular case, which concerns areas with a population in a range between 2000 and 15000. Although many of the original concerns have since been addressed, the scale of the remaining problems has now led the Commission to refer the case to the EU's Court of Justice.
EU legislation on urban waste water treatment dates back to 1991, with long lead times for the implementation deadlines. Member States had until the end of 2000 to ensure appropriate treatment for wastewater from large agglomerations, and until the end of 2005 for discharges from medium-sized agglomerations and discharges to freshwater and estuaries from small agglomerations.
Greece has lagged behind in implementing the legislation, and the latest reports from the Greek authorities show that appropriate treatment facilities are still lacking in five agglomerations (Prosotsani, Doxato, Eleftheroupoli Galatista and Vagia). For three other areas (Polichronou Chanioti and Desfina) the Commission takes the view that the data submitted is either incomplete, or shows a failure to comply with the appropriate standards.
The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (91/271/EEC) requires Member States to ensure that agglomerations (towns, cities, settlements) properly collect and treat their urban waste water. Untreated waste water can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses, presenting a risk to public health. It also contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous which can damage freshwaters and the marine environment, promoting excessive algae growth that chokes other living organisms, a process known as eutrophication.
For more information:
On the February infringement package decisions, see MEMO/15/4489
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12
For more information on infringement procedures: