EU Court Cracks Down on British Sewage Failures

An aerial photo of Gibraltar after take-off from the Rock, looking northwest toward San Roque.

(CN) – Europe’s highest court slammed the United Kingdom on Thursday for sewage failures in various communities across the British Isles and in the Spanish coastal territory of Gibraltar.

The 20-page opinion by the European Court of Justice kicks off with a look at the situation in Gowerton and Llanelli, where complaints from local Welshmen drew the European Commission’s eye in 2009.

Though UK officials acknowledged that the two communities had seen a number of sewage spills, according to the ruling, they told the commission that they would not achieve full compliance with a directive on wastewater treatment until 2020.

The commission put the UK on notice about the situation in Gibraltar meanwhile in 2013, pointing out that the overseas territory had no urban waste water treatment plant whatsoever.

Indignant at the allegation that Gibraltar discharged urban waste into fresh water and estuaries, UK officials told the commission that the discharges occurred in coastal waters.

They estimated Gibraltar will not be in compliance with EU directives, however, until late 2018. 

In Ballycastle, a small town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the ruling notes that the UK was supposed to bring its wastewater agglomeration into compliance by 2005.

The UK instead told the commission in 2014 that it needed until September 2017.

Framwellgate Bridge, Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle can be seen in this photograph taken from Millburngate Bridge on the River Wear inDurham, England.

Thursday’s ruling also looks at a complaint that the commission brought against the UK over sewage issues in eight towns or villages all across England: Tiverton, Durham (Barkers Haugh), Chester-le-Street, Islip, Broughton Astley, Chilton, Witham and Chelmsford.

The commission complained that the UK was allowing these communities to discharge wastewater into sensitive areas without applying sufficiently stringent treatment measures.

In each case, the three-judge chamber of the Court of Justice concluded Thursday that the UK had failed to comply. 

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