EU reprimands Italy over Milan’s untreated sewage discharges

The European Commission has told Italy that the country's failure to treat Milan's wastewater is unacceptable. It is one of only two Western European cities that do not treat wastewater in any way.


Milan, with a population of 2.7 million, discharges its untreated wastewater into the Lambro-Olona river, a tributary of the River Po. The Po empties into the Adriatic sea, which suffers from eutrophication along its coastline.

The EC has sent a Reasoned Opinion to Italy over the member country’s non respect of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD). Under the terms of the directive, Milan was due to install wastewater treatment plants by the end of 1998.

Three wastewater treatment plants are currently under construction to serve Milan, but are not due for completion until 2002-2005.

The EC’s Environment commissioner, Margot Wallström, commented on the decision to issue Italy with a Reasoned Opinion: “I find it very disappointing that, in such a sensitive river catchment as that of the Po, Milan should still be without adequate wastewater treatment. As one of the EU’s premier cities, it is setting a very poor example.” Milan is known as one of Italy’s wealthiest cities.

The only other Western European city that does not yet treat its sewage is Brussels. Wastewater treatment plants are under construction in the Brussels area.

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