Commission to take UK and Italy to court over shellfish and surface water quality

The European Commission has decided to refer the United Kingdom to the European court of Justice for its failure to comply with the Shellfish Waters Directive, and is referring Italy to the Court for failure to comply with the Surface Waters Directive.

According to the Commission, the UK has not designated enough areas as shellfish waters, nor has it drawn up the necessary programmes for cutting pollution in these waters. Italy has not drawn up a surface water action programme for the Lombardy region.

The Shellfish Waters Directive is intended to protect and improve the quality of coastal and brackish waters which have been designated for shellfish, and, as a result, provides high quality shellfish products for human consumption. This means that member states have to designate shellfish waters in which they have to reduce pollution and monitor water quality.

The UK government would like to avoid the impending court action, and is confident that it can comply with the directive, and since the current government came to office, has increased the number of shellfish sites from 41 to 161, an Environment Department (DETR) spokesperson explained to edie.

“We’re disappointed that they have decided to take us to court,” said the spokesperson, explaining that the UK government has instructed water companies to invest £600 million for coastal water improvements, £50 million of which is to be designated for shellfish waters. “This will have a knock-on effect, as well as targeting specific pockets.”

The Surface Waters Directive requires that member states ensure that surface fresh waters abstracted for use as drinking water meets certain standards and is treated appropriately before being introduced to the public supply. Italy has failed to draw up an action programme and clear timetable for the improvement of surface water quality.

“I hope that the United Kingdom and Italian authorities will make every effort to ensure that these directives are complied with as soon as possible,” said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom.

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