Court condemns Belgium for dumping Brussels sewage
BRUSSELS - The European Court of Justice yesterday found Belgium guilty of breaking EU water laws because its capital, Brussels, was illegally pumping untreated sewage into a river.
The court said Belgium was breaking a 1991 EU law which required all major EU cities to have proper waste water systems in place by the end of 1998. Brussels still dumps all its sewage into the river Senne, an area Belgium has identified as environmentally sensitive.
European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said in a statement she would put pressure on all countries failing to apply the 1991 waste water law and would now take Italy, Austria and Germany to court for failing to do so.
"(The law) is a fundamental part of the (EUs) water protection policy," she said in a statement. "I am particularly concerned that major cities such as Milan and Brussels are still discharging urban waste waters without treatment."
Yesterdays court decision puts only moral pressure on Belgium to comply with the directive but it does open the way for a second prosecution which could eventually lead to the country being fined.
On Wednesday the EU court used its power to fine a country for failing to apply EU law for the first time by forcing Greece to pay 20,000 euros ($19,100) a day until it cleans up a waste dump in Crete.
The Luxembourg-based court rejected Belgiums defence that institutional reforms over the last 30 years had made it difficult to make the necessary changes. Belgium has devolved power over environmental matters to the regional governments.
The Commission, the EUs executive which polices the implementation of EU rules, also said it would send Belgium a final warning for other breaches of the law in all three of its regions. ($1=1.047 Euro).
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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