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Estonia faced with EU fine for non-compliance with wastewater treatment rules

БК, Таллинн, 13.08.2018.Print version
The European Commission is not satisfied with the performance of Estonia in establishing wastewater treatment systems complying with European Union requirements and the country may be faced with a fine if appropriate action is not taken, informs LETA/BNS/Eesti Paevaleht.

The Estonian Ministry of the Environment was reminded from Brussels at the beginning of June that at the end of December 2016 the country was issued a formal warning to act promptly when it comes to the establishment of wastewater systems. As the next move, the Commission sent out a reasoned opinion, which is the last step before going to court.

According to the Commission's notice, in Estonia authorities still have to ensure proper urban waste water treatment in eight agglomerations and the authorities of Cyprus in 36 agglomerations.  

"The Commission sent a letter of formal notice in December 2016. As in both cases compliance with EU rules is not expected in the near future, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Cyprus and Estonia to speed up their efforts. If the two countries fail to act within two months, the cases may be referred to the Court of Justice of the EU," the Commission said on June 7.

In addition, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice to Romania for its failure to comply with EU rules on urban waste water treatment.

The Commission's notice to Estonia concerns seven settlements: Arukula, Narva-Joesuu, Kardla, Muraste, Turisalu, Vaana-Joesuu and Keila. These settlements have some 11,500 households combined, about 6,700 of which have not joined the wastewater collecting system.

The EU allocated 630 mln euros in the last fiscal period and 140 mln euros in the current fiscal period to Estonia for compliance with wastewater treatment requirements.

"The use of money for putting the wastewater system in order however depends on the initiative of municipalities and local water services companies, as well as their ability to draw up projects and apply for funding," Raili Karmas, adviser at the water department of the Ministry of the Environment, said.

Since it is not possible to link up approximately 6,700 households to the wastewater treatment system right away, the Ministry of the Environment is looking for possibilities to negotiate with the Commission.

Namely, the EU requirements would be fulfilled also when the wastewater from homes not linked up to the wastewater treatment system was collected into leakproof tanks and transported from there to wastewater treatment facilities. The ministry is now asking the municipalities for relevant statistics.

While the size of the fine that the Commission could slap on Estonia is not known, Paevaleht observed that in previous similar cases the fine has ranged from three to ten mln euros to which a penalty of 4,700 to 20,000 euros a day until all requirements have been met has been added.


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