Commission warns five countries over use of sewage sludge

The European Commission has decided to send warning letters to Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Portugal with regard to their failures to provide adequate information on sewage sludge disposal or to ensure adequate records.

The Communities Sewage Sludge Directive provides for quality controls on sewage sludge that is used in agriculture, in particular to avoid the build-up of heavy metals in soil, and demands a system of record-keeping to enable controls. The Directive requires Member States to submit information on use of sewage sludge to the Commission every three years, including the quantity and contents of sludge produced and used.

“It is vital to protect and enhance the quality of our food,” said Margot Wallstrom. “We need to be sure that we have the right information and effective controls on the use of sewage sludge in agriculture. Some Member States clearly need to improve the information they collect and transmit to the Commission.”

The information for 1995-1997 was due on 30 September 1998, and in the case of some Member States the information was either incomplete, or showed that States were not monitoring the use of sludge as required by the Directive.

According to the Commission, adequate monitoring of sludge use is designed to prevent vegetation uptake of heavy metals, and gives land-use planners information on the fate of sludge. Furthermore, says the Commission, lack of adequate information may undermine confidence in the use of sludge in agriculture.

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