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European Commission acts on water issues in Ireland, Poland, Spain and Sweden

The European Commission has taken steps to ensure Ireland, Poland, Spain and Sweden take action to meet EU requirements on water-related issues.

The Commission is urging Ireland to comply with EU water rules to meet the obligation to prepare a second round of the River Basin Management Plans under the Water Framework Directive(Directive 2000/60/EC). The Plans are meant to provide a comprehensive overview of the main issues for each river basin district and should include the specific measures needed to achieve set environmental quality objectives.

To date Ireland has not adopted, published or communicated to the Commission the review and update of its first River Basin Management Plans, due by 22 October 2015 for all the seven river basin districts.

In April 2017 the Commission sent Ireland a letter of formal notice and is now sending a reasoned opinion. Ireland now has two months to comply with its obligations; otherwise, the Commission could decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

The EC has also requested that Spain should respect the EU rules on extractive waste and water. The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Spain due to concerns about the handling of saline waste in Súria and Sallent.The Commission says that regional authorities need to ensure that the extractive waste facilities fully comply with the Extractive Waste and to implement the necessary measures to improve water quality in the Llobregat River basin as required by the Water Framework Directive.

According to the EC, the current situation is continuing to cause serious environmental problems resulting from potash extraction. The Spanish authorities now have two months to reply – in the event of an unsatisfactory response, the case could also be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Finally, the Commission is asking Sweden to modify its legislation on water on the basis that there are still a number of instances of non-conformity and shortcomings in the Swedish transposition of the Water Framework Directive. These concern the failure to consider cost recovery for activities likely to have an impact on water quality.

In addition, the Swedish legislation currently does not consider that the obligations to avoid deterioration of water are relevant for the authorisation of projects, such as hydropower installations. The Commission said that while Sweden is preparing new legislation on the latter point it has not yet adopted it. Sweden now has two months to react to the Commission’s requests.

The Commission is separately calling on Poland to comply with EU legislation for treating urban waste water to ensure that urban waste water is adequately collected and treated. The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive requires Member States to ensure that all agglomerations with a population of more than 2,000 inhabitants, properly collect and treat their urban waste water. All Polish agglomerations should have been compliant by 31 December 2015 – however, despite Poland’s efforts and EU financial support from Cohesion Policy, the EC said that the “compliance gap remains serious.” Poland now has two months to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission.

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