Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Brussels, 9 February 2022

Urban Waste Water: Commission decides to refer POLAND to the Court of Justice of the European Union for lack of treatment of its waste waters

The Commission decided today to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Directive 91/271/EEC). The Directive requires Member States to ensure that urban agglomerations (towns, cities, settlements) properly collect and treat their waste waters, thus eliminating or reducing all their undesirable effects when they are discharged into water bodies.

The European Green Deal sets a Zero Pollution ambition for the EU. EU legislation, such as the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, aims to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment, and it is essential that Member States implement it fully.

Poland should have been fully compliant with the Directive since 2015. In Poland, over 1000 agglomerations do not have a collecting system for their municipal waste waters meaning that the waste water is being directly discharged in rivers, seas or lakes without treatment. The waste water should normally be directed to a waste water treatment plant before being discharged. In addition, in 415 agglomerations, whose waste waters are being discharged in sensitive areas, Poland has not ensured that those waters are subject to more stringent treatment as required by the Directive.

The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Poland on 26 January 2018, followed by a reasoned opinion on 14 May 2020. The Commission considers that despite some progress and financial support from EU cohesion policy, efforts by the Polish authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is therefore referring Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union.


Untreated waste water can be contaminated with bacteria and viruses and thus presents a risk to human health. It also contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can damage freshwaters and the marine environment, by promoting excessive growth of algae that chokes other life, a process known as eutrophication.

The Commission published in September 2020 the 10th report on the implementation of the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive that showed an overall improvement in collection and treatment of waste water in Europe’s cities and towns, but pointed to varying success levels between the Member States.

For More Information

Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive – Overview

Infringements database

EU infringements procedure

Source – EU Commission


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