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European Commission - Press release

Environment: Commission takes FRANCE to Court over poor waste water treatment

Brussels, 29 April 2015

The European Commission is taking France to the EU Court of Justice for not complying with EU legislation on urban waste water treatment. Some 17 agglomerations are listed as not having waste water treatment up to EU standards. Untreated urban waste water can endanger the health of European citizens and the environment. The European Commission has to ensure that the level of treatment of urban waste water can be guaranteed throughout the European Union. France was first warned in 2009 about this particular case, which concerns areas with a population equivalent in a range between 2000 and 15000.

EU legislation on urban waste water treatment dates back to 1991, but provided long 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.

The list of agglomerations that should have been compliant by 2005 includes Goyave, Bastelica, Borgo Nord, Morne àl'eau, Vincey, Aiguille Château Ville Vieille, Etueffont, Isola, Plombières-les-Bains, Saint-Cere, Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, Villeneuve, Volx, Braine, Coggia, Corte, Petit-Bourg.

If, by the time the case goes to trial, the Commission receives new information demonstrating that any of the above agglomerations are now in compliance, they will be removed from the list.


Background

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive 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 April infringement package decisions, see MEMO/15/4871

On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12

For more information on infringement procedures:

http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

IP/15/4873

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