France in Euro Court over nitrates

2 November 1999

France in Euro Court over nitrates

By Philip Clarke

FRANCE is being taken to the European Court by Brussels for its failure to properly implement EU legislation on the control of nitrates in water.

Introduced in 1991, the Nitrates Directive requires member states to establish zones vulnerable to nitrate pollution from agriculture and then implement action plans to deal with it.

These were supposed to be in place by the end of 1995. But last week the EU Commission decided the French approach was insufficient.

In particular, it had ignored water supplies “where agricultural inputs are not preponderant, but are nonetheless significant”.

“As a consequence, there are serious gaps in relation to metropolitan France, and no assessment has been finalised in relation to overseas departments,” said a spokesman.

Similar action was launched against the UK earlier this year, on the grounds that the UK was only applying the standards to drinking water, rather than all surface and ground waters.

Government is currently reviewing existing nitrate-vulnerable zones (NVZs), which could result in an expanded area, though the actual controls applying will not necessarily be any tighter.

“Member states are obliged to review NVZ designations every four years anyway,” says NFU adviser, Mike Payne.

“Effectively we have two reviews going on at the same time.”

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