Launched in early 1999, today's judgement confirms a European Commission complaint that the UK had interpreted the directive too narrowly (ENDS Daily 25 January 1999). Whereas it requires member states to identify all surface or groundwaters polluted by nitrates or at risk of being so, and to designate any such areas as "nitrate vulnerable zones," the UK had only identified surface and groundwaters used as sources of drinking water.
Under the directive, nitrate vulnerable zones should have been identified and designated by December 1993. EU member states should have prepared action programmes for controlling pollution in nitrate vulnerable zones by December 1995.
In court, the UK accepted the Commission's complaint, and during the case announced steps to broaden its definition of waters to include all surface and groundwaters (see link below). This process is still underway, according to the UK environment ministry, and a substantial increase in the area of land designated as nitrate vulnerable is expected next year.
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