Spain referred to Court for nitrate pollution
The European Commission (EC) refers Spain to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to take sufficient action on nitrates pollution. The European Commission published this decision in the infringement package in December. The Member States must monitor their waters and identify those affected or likely to be affected by pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources.
Pollution with nitrates is caused by livestock density and mineral fertilizers. They are the main contaminant of groundwater. The latest research report, based on data from 2016-2019, shows that nitrates cause water pollution across Europe. High concentrations of nitrate in water are harmful to human health and nitrate pollution causes a lack of oxygen and explosive algal growth (eutrophication).
The region of Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, is struck by this problem. According to the Valencian Head of the Department of the Geological and Mining Institute Bruno Ballesteros, nitrate pollution is the biggest challenge to preserve Valencian underground water resources. A total of 453 sources of drinking water are affected by nitrates and other chemicals in the area. He stated: “It’s a process that has been ongoing for a long time and has polluted great quantities of groundwater.”
A report from Greenpeace presents data that nitrate pollution in Spain has increased by 51.5% in just four years (from 2016 to 2019) and that the region of Murcia is the community with the highest levels of nitrate pollution in groundwater in 2019, followed by Catalonia. The report also points Spain for its ‘ineffectiveness’ in complying with the Nitrates Directive and recalls the infringement procedure opened in 2018 by the Commission against Spain.
According to the health ministry, a study of national water resources found that 67,050 samples, some taken from the same place on different dates, were undrinkable. Nitrate levels are a cause for concern, with nearly three out of 10 of Spain’s groundwater monitoring stations registering a concentration close to or above the potability threshold.
The EC decided that despite some limited progress, Spain must still take additional measures to prevent eutrophication for the whole country since the measures established to date have failed to achieve the objectives of the Nitrates Directive. In addition, it should review and further designate Nitrate Vulnerable Zones in seven regions (Castilla y León, Extremadura, Galicia, Islas Baleares, Islas Canarias, Madrid and Comunidad Valenciana) as well as include all the necessary mandatory elements in the Action Programmes for five regions (Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Madrid). The EC also insisted on additional measures for the four regions where the measures set in place have proven insufficient to achieve the objectives of the Nitrates Directive (Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, and Murcia).