Italy is being taken back to the Court of Justice of the European Union (EU), by the European Commission, for its failure to comply in full and completely with the Court’s 2012 judgment on urban waste water treatment.
The Court of Justice of the EU handed down a ruling in 2012 that the Italian authorities were violating EU law by not collecting and treating the urban waste water discharged by 109 Agglomerations ( towns, cities and settlements) , in an adequate manner or to an adequate degree. They were ordered to resolve this problem in to prevent serious risks to human health and the environment.
Four years later, there are still 80 agglomerations, serving in excess of six million people, in which the problems remain unaddressed. The areas in question include areas in seven Italian regions: Abruzzo (one agglomeration), Calabria (13 agglomerations), Campania (seven agglomerations), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (two agglomerations), Liguria (three agglomerations), Puglia (three agglomerations), and Sicilia (51 agglomerations).
The Commission has stated that the lack of adequate collection and treatment systems for the 80 agglomerations poses significant risks to human health, inland waters and the marine environment, and is requesting that the Court of Justice of the EU impose a lump sum payment of €62,699,421.40. The Commission has also proposed a daily penalty payment of €346,922.40 if full compliance is not achieved by the date when the Court issues its ruling.
Untreated waste water can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can present a risk to public health. Untreated waste water also contains nitrogen and phosphorous, which can damage freshwaters as well as the marine environment by encouraging excessive growth of algae that promotes a process known as ‘eutrophication’ which chokes all other marine and plant- life.
Other EU Member States (Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal) have previously been subject to penalties in similar cases, and Spain has also been referred to the Court for a second time and might also be facing fines.
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