Dirty beaches taken off bathing list to avoid clean-up

As the summer holiday season approaches, it has emerged that thousands of European beaches have mysteriously disappeared from an official list of safe bathing sites where water quality must be monitored and kept up to EU standards.

A total of eleven EU states will receive formal warnings from the Commission after it emerged they quietly removed 7,000 bathing sites from official clean water lists, with no explanation – an easy way of bypassing the EU Bathing Water Directive.

The Directive, revised in 2002, requires all EU states to monitor water quality and keep pollution down at listed bathing sites in order to protect bathers’ health and the environment. It is during the last round of annual reporting on water quality that the Commission noticed lists of bathing sites were shrinking.

“The European Court of Justice has established that so-called de-recognition or de-listing of bathing sites must be properly explained and justified – and should not be a response to water pollution,” the Commission said in a statement.

Those holidaying on Spanish or French beaches may now be stepping into dirtier water after the countries removed 17% of their coastal bathing sites from the list since the early nineties, rather than improving water quality as required by the Directive.

Other offenders include popular beach holiday destinations such as Italy, Portugal and Greece, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.

Even more freshwater bathing sites have disappeared from the clean water lists, with almost 70% declassified in Spain and just under 50% in France, for example.

The European Commission has responded by sending warning letters and asking for the sites to be reinstated and cleaned up.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas commented: “The EU Bathing Water Directive is helping to ensure that millions of bathers can enjoy clean bathing water during the summer months.

“That is why I am concerned that some Member States do no longer apply the safeguard measures of the Directive to several thousand bathing waters across the EU. Failing to clean up the polluted bathing sites is both against the letter and the spirit of the Directive.”

For more information on the Bathing Water Directive see the EU website.

Current statistics on compliance with this and other EU directives can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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