Italy Warned Over Sewage Treatment Delay

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 6, 2000 (ENS) - The European Commission is to send Italy a final legal warning over failure to ensure proper sewage treatment for Milan, the European Union's executive announced today. Along with Brussels, Milan is the only major EU city that still discharges its effluent untreated into rivers.

Three wastewater treatment plants are currently under construction to serve Italy's second city, but are not due to be completed before the period 2002-2005.

Milan

Via Sant'Andrea in Milan, Italy (Photo courtesy DolceVita Multistore)
Under the European Union's 1991 urban wastewater treatment law, which the Commission accuses Italy of breaching, major cities were required to have full treatment facilities in place by 1998.

With a population of 2.7 million, Milan discharges wastewater into the Lambro-Olona river and is a "significant contributor" to pollution causing severe over-enrichment of water in the Po catchment and the Adriatic Sea, according to the Commission.

European Union Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said the city was "setting a very poor example" by failing to put in place adequate treatment.

Italy has already been condemned by the European Court in 1996 for failing to properly transpose the urban wastewater directive into national law. The Commission argues that measures subsequently introduced by the government remain insufficient and could now launch a repeat court action.