The case concerned alleged breaches by Spain of a number of European Directives covering waste, groundwater, environmental impact assessment, urban waste water treatment and the protection of waste against pollution by nitrates, though only the allegations in respect of the Directives on waste and urban waste water treatment were upheld by the court.

In respect of waste legislation, Spain was held to have failed to have adopted the measures necessary to comply with Articles 4, 9 and 13 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) (Directive 75/449/EC).

Spain had failed to take the necessary measures in respect of the construction and running of an intensive pig farm situated in “”El pago de la Media Legua”, in the municipal district of Vera, in the south-eastern province of Almeria, by failing to ensure that waste from the pig farm was recovered or disposed of without endangering human health and without harming the environment.

The Spanish authorities admitted that the pig farm was illegal as it was not covered by a licence, and therefore did not have the requisite authorisation required by Article 9 of the WFD. Other complaints raised concerned strong odours emanating from the farm, inadequate arrangements for handling slurry, and inadequate arrangements for the disposal of carcasses.

The Spanish authorities had also not provided evidence of inspections carried out to ensure compliance with the WFD.

In respect of the treatment of urban waste water, Spain was held to have failed to fulfil the requirements of Article 5(2) of the Urban Waste Water Treatment (UWWT) Directive (Directive 91/271/EEC) as it had not subjected the waste-water of the agglomeration of Vera, which has a population of more than 10 000, to secondary treatment.

In raising the action the Commission also brought it to the attention of the court that the waste water from Vera was deposited in an area which ought to have been designated as sensitive and that samples of waste water analysed by the Commission were found to have exceeded the quantity of the chemical oxygen demand (COD) by three times the amount authorised for effluent from a waste treatment station.

The judgement is not yet available in English but can be found in a number of other European languages at the following link: CURIA

Case C-121/03 Commission v Spain

The Advocate-General delivered her opinion in the case of Commission v Spain on 26 May 2005, recommending that the Spanish government be condemned for various breaches of EU Directives.

The action was brought by the Commission before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 19 March 2003, asking the ECJ to declare that Spain had failed to take the necessary measures in respect of the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 75/442/EEC) by failing to ensure that waste from a number of pig farms located in the Baix Ter area, Gerona, was recovered or disposed of without endangering human health or endangering the environment and by failing to ensure that those pig farms had the necessary permits or were subject to regular inspections as required under the Directive.

The Commission also raised complaints to the effect that by failing to carry out an impact assessment prior to the construction or modification of the project, a breach of the EIA Directive (Directive 85/337/EEC) had occurred.

In respect of water pollution legislation, it was also alleged that hydrogeological studies of the areas affected by pollution emanating from the pig farms, had not been carried out, contrary to the requirements of the Groundwater Directive (Directive 80/68/EEC).

Finally, by exceeding, on various public water distribution networks in the Baix Ter area, the maximum admissible concentration for the nitrate parameters set out in Directive 80/778/EEC on the quality of water intended for human consumption, it was alleged that further breaches of European law had occurred.

While the arguments regarding the EIA and Groundwater Directives were not accepted by the Advocate-General, she has recommended that Spain be condemned for breaches of the Waste Framework Directive and the Drinking Water Directive.

She also set out important clarifications regarding the circumstances in which pig slurry can be treated as NOT being Waste.

Whether Spain will be pulled up for the above breaches of European law will depend on the judgement of the European Court of Justice and whether they do indeed follow the recommendation of the Advocate-General. The case is not yet available in English but can be accessed at the following link and should shortly be available in English: CURIA

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