EU court cases announced on nitrates, waste

Commission alleges environmental law infringements by UK, France, Belgium

The European Commission is to launch court cases against the UK and France alleging failure to comply fully with EU environmental laws, the body announced today. In a third case, the EU executive is to start infringement proceedings against Belgium.

The UK case concerns the EU's 1991 directive on water pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources. The directive is one of the worst implemented of all EU environmental laws, according to the Commission, which has infringement proceedings underway against most member states (ENDS Daily 12 October 1998).

There are a number of weaknesses in the UK's implementation of the law, the Commission alleges. In particular, the Commission says, it focused efforts to identify waters affected by nitrate pollution only on drinking water sources. The Commission acknowledges a recent move by the UK to extend monitoring to all waters, but says that the additional monitoring will not be completed until 2000 whereas the deadline was the end of 1993.

Where an EU country classifies an area as a nitrate vulnerable zone it must draft an action programme setting out measures to control pollution. A second allegation levelled at the UK is that no action programmes have been established for three nitrate vulnerable zones in Northern Ireland.

In a second court action announced today, the European Commission is to apply to the European Court of Justice for a judgement against France alleging failure to adopt and communicate a series of waste management plans.

Waste management plans are required to be submitted mainly under the EU's 1975 framework waste directive as amended in 1991, and under the 1991 directive on hazardous waste and the 1994 directive on packaging and packaging waste. The Commission describes them as a "key element" in the EU approach to waste.

It alleges several failures in French waste plans: some departments have not submitted plans covering general waste; some regions have not submitted plans covering hazardous waste, and most plans do not have a specific chapter on packaging waste. In addition, some plans do not cover specific wastes such as PCBs and clinical waste.

Announced last week, the third infringement action is a formal notice (first warning) to be sent to Belgium alleging irregularities in the way that a municipal waste incinerator was granted a permit in 1997. The case concerns the Drogenbos incinerator situated just metres away from the Brussels region in the Flemish part of Belgium.

Local residents complained to the Commission, alleging failures in the permitting process, including inaccuracies in the environmental impact assessment carried out. "It is not clear from the permit," the Commission notes, "that the competent authority was aware of all these inaccuracies and gaps".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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