European Commission takes Italy to court over lack of urban wastewater treatment

2 Jun 2023 by The Water Diplomat

On the 1st of June, the European Commission decided to refer Italy to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for breaching its obligations under the wastewater treatment directive. This decision follows an earlier judgement from the ECJ from 2014 that in 74 urban areas, Italy has been falling behind in its obligations to sufficiently treat urban wastewater before releasing it back into the environment. According to the EU, although Italy has made significant progress in the implementation of the wastewater directive, there are still five settlements - one in the Valle d'Aosta region and four in Sicily – where the terms of the ruling have not been observed. The EU argues that the lack of adequate wastewater treatment systems for these five agglomerations poses significant risks to human health, inland waters and the marine environment in the environmentally sensitive areas in which the untreated waste water is discharged. In 2018, four years after the judgement, the EU issued a final notice to Italy to comply with the court ruling  

The EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive  (UWTD) stems from 1991 and requires the collection and treatment of wastewater in all settlements with more than 2000 inhabitants. For settlements with more than 10 000 inhabitants which are located in ecologically sensitive areas, the UWTD requires advanced wastewater treatment before its release back into the environment. The directive had set a deadline for the year 2000 for its full implementation in settlements larger than 10 000 people.