Further rise in EU bathing water quality

Wallström denies scientific opinion represents an obstacle to planned revision of EU law

EU coastal and freshwater bathing water quality continued to improve last year, according to EU-wide sampling results for the 2000 bathing season released today by the European Commission. Environment commissioner Margot Wallström said she would propose a revision of the 25-year-old directive underpinning the monitoring effort by the end of the year, despite a recent scientific opinion questioning the scientific basis of her current suggestions.

The figures show that the overall proportion of EU coastal water sites meeting the directive's mandatory limit values for water quality reached 96.5% in 2000. This is nearly one percentage point higher than the average reported in 1999 (ENDS Daily 30 May 2000). The number meeting the tougher "guide" values rose by a similar margin to 88.4%. Only Belgium managed 100% compliance with the mandatory values, for the second successive year.

Average compliance at freshwater sites improved by a larger margin from a lower base, rising by about 3.5 percentage points to reach 93.6% and 70.4% for the mandatory and guide values respectively. This was despite declines in quality in Belgium, Portugal, the UK and Germany. Much of the overall quality gain in both water types was due to "considerable improvements" in Sweden and Finland.

Ms Wallström said her plan to revise the directive would not be derailed by an opinion earlier this month from the EU's scientific committee on toxicology, ecotoxicology and the environment, which said it was not scientifically possible to set exact limit values for two new microbiological contamination indicator parameters proposed by the Commission (ENDS Daily 14 May). "It looked more serious than it turned out to be," she claimed. "What is important is that they say [the Commission's suggested limit values] are in the right range."

Meanwhile the Commission is likely to announce later this week that Spain will receive a repeat European court summons over its failure to comply with the directive, a step that could lead to it being made to pay daily fines until it achieves compliance. France, which failed to submit monitoring results for the second successive year due to industrial action, will also face infringement action soon unless it resolves the situation, an official said.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, press release, and bathing water site.

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