Cyprus faces possible legal action from the European Commission for failing to ensure its wastewater treatment plants comply with EU law.
Earlier this week, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Nicosia, calling on it to implement a 2020 ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union concerning the insufficient implementation of the urban waste treatment directive.
The process could result in financial sanctions against Cyprus unless the situation is remedied within two months.
The Commission stated that Cyprus has not taken the necessary measures to ensure all urban wastewater is collected and treated in a way that protects human health and the environment.
According to Brussels, around 45 per cent of urban wastewater in Cyprus is not properly collected or treated, meaning that untreated or inadequately treated wastewater is being discharged into the environment.
This could lead to a range of environmental and health problems, including pollution of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, as well as the risk of waterborne diseases.
The Commission also highlighted that Cyprus has failed to carry out proper monitoring of its wastewater treatment plants, such that it cannot accurately assess the environmental impact of their discharge. In addition, the Commission found that Cyprus has not ensured that the necessary permits are in place for all wastewater treatment plants, a requirement under EU law.
Specifically, Brussels says Nicosia is in violation of the urban wastewater treatment Directive (Directive 91/271/EEC).
The Directive requires towns and cities to collect and properly treat urban wastewater before it’s discharged into the environment.
In 2020 the Court of Justice ruled that in 31 agglomerations, Cyprus failed to ensure that all urban water was collected or that urban wastewater entering collecting systems was subject to appropriate treatment before being discharged. In order to comply with the ruling, Cyprus has committed to build collection networks or new treatment plants for all agglomerations.
According to the Commission, progress has been achieved on two agglomerations, where urban wastewater is now collected and treated. However, the remaining 29 agglomerations still do not conform to EU rules. Construction works have only started for 13 agglomerations (with compliance expected to be achieved by the end of this year) while for the other 16 agglomerations, compliance is expected to be reached by 2029.
Cyprus has two months to remedy the situation – if not, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, with a proposal to impose financial sanctions.