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European Commission takes France and Italy to court over poor water quality




The European Commission continues to pay close attention to water quality (photo: F.Dubessy)
The European Commission continues to pay close attention to water quality (photo: F.Dubessy)
EU. On Wednesday 9 June 2021, the European Commission decided to bring an action against Italy before the Court of Justice of the European Union for "failure to comply with the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive".
This text requires Member States to "ensure that water intended for human consumption is wholesome and clean". Drinking water must be free from micro-organisms, parasites and substances that may present a danger to human health.

According to the European Commission, this is not the case in some parts of the country, in Lazio and in the County of Viterbo, where "the levels of arsenic and fluoride in drinking water have long exceeded the parametric values set in the Drinking Water Directive. This can be detrimental to human health, in particular for children". The Brussels-based institution said that six areas (Bagnoregio, Civitella d'Agliano, Fabrica di Roma, Farnese, Ronciglione, Tuscania) had arsenic levels above the safe levels and two (Bagnoregio and Fabrica di Roma) also exceeded those for fluoride.

The European Commission had already warned the Italian government of this "unsafe drinking water" in 2014 with a letter of formal notice, followed by a reasoned opinion in January 2019 covering 16 areas. Since then, ten have complied.

France also concerned

In parallel, on the same day and at the same body, the European Commission also lodged an appeal against France "for its waste water treatment". The country does not comply with the requirements of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. The latter obliges Member States, with effect from 2015, to "ensure that agglomerations (cities, towns, localities) collect and treat their urban waste water properly in order to eliminate or reduce its adverse effects".

The European Commission points to more than one hundred French agglomerations with more than 2,000 inhabitants that do not meet these requirements. It warned the French government in a letter of formal notice in October 2017, followed by a reasoned opinion in May 2020. "Although the French authorities provided monitoring data to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Directive in some agglomerations, the remaining failures and shortcomings led the Commission to conclude that the authorities had failed to demonstrate compliance with the said requirements for the above-mentioned agglomerations," says a Brussels statement.

The text states that "untreated waste water can be contaminated with bacteria and viruses and therefore presents a risk to human health. It also contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can harm freshwater supplies and the marine environment by promoting the growth of algae that smother other forms of life, a phenomenon known as eutrophication ".

Eric Apim


Thursday, June 10th 2021



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