European Court of Justice sanctions Spain for failure to comply with wastewater legislation

By Alexandra Farbiarz Mas. Communications expert specialising in Biotechnology and Environment.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has sanctioned Spain for not correctly treating wastewater in four agglomerations, thus bringing an end to a legal confrontation that dates back to 2003.

The decision came just days after the presentation of the European Commission’s Eighth Report on the Implementation Status and the Programmes for Implementation (as required by Article 17) of Council Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban wastewater treatment (hereinafter Directive  91/271)

According to this report, Spain is currently 19th of the 25 EU countries analysed in terms of compliance with Directive 91/271, which can be consulted by clicking on this link.

The report concludes that in order to achieve full compliance with Directive 91/271 in the EU as a whole, action must be taken to overcome existing gaps:

– 11 million  population equivalent (2% of the EU) must be connected and have their wastewater treated through individual and other appropriate systems in order to achieve the same degree of environmental protection afforded by sewer systems.

-48 million population equivalent (9% of EU) of the urban wastewater already collected has to meet the performance of a secondary treatment.

-39 million population equivalent (12% of EU) of the urban waste water already connected has to meet the performance of a more stringent treatment.

“Population equivalents”, a term used in Directive 91/271, covers the organic pollution generated by the inhabitants of a village/town, and other sources such as non-resident population and agro-food industries.

Spain is not the only EU country to appear before the courts for wastewater treatment infringements in recent times. France and the United Kingdom have been facing similar accusations from the European Commission since June and September 2015, respectively.