Spain condemned over EU water pollution law

National initiatives do not comply with dangerous substances directive, European court rules

Spain was condemned by the European Court of Justice today for failing to comply with an EU law passed in 1976 to control pollution of waters by certain dangerous substances. As alleged by the European Commission in a case launched in 1996, the court ruled that Spain was in breach of requirements under the directive to establish specific programmes to reduce pollution by so-called "list II" or "grey list" substances, in particular by requiring prior authorisation of emissions and imposing emissions standards. The Spanish government's plea that its federal political system made full implementation of the law difficult was rejected by the court. Spain's further defence was that discharge limits and quality objectives had been developed under a 1985 law for some 30 substances in list II of the directive. However, the court ruled that the actions taken did not constitute "specific programmes" but rather "a series of ad hoc legislative measures which cannot amount to an organised and coordinated system of quality objectives relating to specific watercourses or bodies of standing water". The court's judgement follows recent condemnations of Greece and Luxembourg for similar failings with respect to the dangerous substances directive (ENDS Daily 12 June).

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