European Commission takes Luxembourg to court over wastewater

27 October 2011

The European Commission is referring Luxembourg back to the European Court of Justice for poor treatment of urban waste water. The Court previously ruled in November 2006 that Luxembourg was failing in its obligation to treat and dispose of urban waste water in an adequate manner. Nearly five years after the Court’s ruling, four agglomerations in Luxembourg do not yet comply with EU legislation, including the capital. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, the Commission is asking the Court to impose fines, suggesting a lump sum of 11 340 EUR and a daily penalty payment of 1 248 EUR until the obligations are fulfilled.

These don’t seem like punitive amounts given the length of time the problem has been going on?  Maybe its retrospective?

Luxembourg has designated its whole territory as a “sensitive area” and initially chose to comply with its obligations by aiming for an overall reduction of 75% of nitrogen and phosphorous from all treatment plants (an alternative compliance route proposed by the Directive). Following the Court ruling, Luxembourg opted to comply with the Directive by imposing the more stringent treatment required for agglomerations of more than 10,000 people. 

Towns and cities across the European Union are required to collect and treat their urban waste water under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.  Untreated waste water can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses and thus presents a risk to public health. It also contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous which can damage freshwater and the marine environment by promoting excessive growth of algae that chokes other life, a process known as eutrophication.

The minimum percentage of reduction of the overall load entering all urban waste water treatment plants in that area is at least 75% for total phosphorus and at least 75% for total nitrogen.

In the past 30 years the EU has adopted a substantial and diverse range of environmental measures aimed at improving the quality of the environment for European citizens and providing them with a high quality of life. The environment can only be well protected if Member States properly implement the legislation they have signed up to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *