Only minimal progress on nitrate pollution in the EU

Europaba Big X
Europaba Big X

Only minimal progress has been made in the fight against nitrate pollution of water bodies over the past 10 years, according to the European Commission.

“Excessive fertilisation remains a problem in many parts of the EU,” the European Commission announced on Monday. Nitrates serve as a nutrient for plants and often end up as a component of fertilizer on fields.

A too high nutrient concentration in water can lead to a strong growth of algae, for example, the commission announced on the occasion of a report on the implementation of the Nitrates Directive.

This reduces the oxygen content in the water, which means that fish, amphibians and insects may no longer be able to survive. Some of these algae could also be toxic or even deadly to humans.

“For the period 2016-19, across member states, 14.1 per cent of groundwater still exceeded the nitrates concentration limit set for drinking water,” it said.

Germany, for example, has also already been in trouble for its handling of high nitrate levels. In July, the responsible EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius criticized Germany for not correctly identifying areas with high nitrate pollution in groundwater and harmful nutrient enrichment.

If Germany failed to act, he would consider taking the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and initiating appropriate fines, the commissioner said about three months ago.

In the meantime, the European Commission confirmed on Monday that it had received a reply. It said it was working with the German authorities and providing assistance to ensure that a ruling by the ECJ could be complied with “as soon as possible.”

The ECJ concluded in 2018 that Germany had done too little over the years to combat over-fertilization with manure and contamination of groundwater by nitrates.

The WWF criticizes Germany for being in a particularly bad position in an EU comparison.

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