Urban wastewater trends moving in the right direction
Towns, cities and settlements across the European Union are required to collect and treat their urban waste water under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive both to minimize risk to public health and potential eutrophication of receiving waters.
The latest figures for wastewater treatment in Europe show improvements in collection and treatment, even if big differences remain between Member States.
The report shows that the vast majority (91 %) of the pollution load from the EU’s big cities receives more stringent treatment, a considerable improvement on the situation in the previous report (77 %).
In addition, better water treatment and fewer raw sewage discharges into the environment have also undoubtedly improved bathing water quality (see IP/13/445). In the early 1990s, only around 60 % of bathing sites had excellent quality water, whereas today that figure is 78 %.
The latest report covers the period 2009/2010. The main findings are:
- Collection rates were at a very high level, with 15 Member States collecting 100 % of their total polluting load. All had maintained or improved previous results, although compliance rates remained below 30 % in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia.
- Compliance rates for secondary treatment are 82 %, up four points since the previous report. But there were huge differences between the EU-15, where rates were in the range 90-100 %, and EU-12, where average compliance was 39 %.
- Compliance rates for more stringent treatment to combat eutrophication or reduce bacteriological pollution that could affect human health were 77 % overall. EU-12 Member States averaged only 14 %, whereas Austria, Germany, Greece, and Finland reached 100 % compliance.
- The share of EU territory designated as a sensitive area increased by two points since the previous report, reaching almost 75 %. The biggest increases took place in France and Greece.
The report shows that the vast majority (91 %) of the pollution load from the EU’s big cities receives more stringent treatment, a considerable improvement on the situation in the previous report (77 %). But an annex to the report comparing the situation of 27 European capital cities adds a note of caution: only 11 of the 27 had an adequate collecting and treatment system in place â€“ despite the fact that the standards were set more than 20 years ago.
Compliance rates were higher where costs were recovered and the “polluter pays” principle implemented. The Commission is promoting compliance through continued dialogue and, where necessary, through infringement procedures, some dating back to 1997. Infringement cases against 10 Member States are still open.
Source: EU Press Releases