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Vila Real Santo António sewage treatment risks public health

vrsa2In an alleged breach of Portugal’s environmental obligations, Brussels has stated an action in the European Court of Justice for Portugal’s failure to purify wastewater in Vila Real de Santo António (pictured) and Matosinhos near Oporto.

Brussels has requested that a fine be issued of €4.4 million plus a daily sum of €20,196 until the standards are acceptable.

The European Commission decided to take Portugal to court for "incorrect application of the Urban Wastewater Treatment directive,” in other words it is not treating its resident's effluent correctly, safely or in accordance with environmental laws.

This has happened before as in 2009 the same court held that Portugal was not properly fulfilling its obligation to collect, treat and dispose of urban waste water.

In 2009 seven areas of over 15,000 inhabitants lacked the necessary waste water collection systems and 15 areas lacked proper waste water treatment facilities. Vila Real was in the 2009 list and, as it has singularly failed to improve and upgrade treatment facilities, it is in the shortlist for 2014 with no plausible excuse for its failure to bring sewage treatment systems into this century.

According to a statement from the Commission, five years down the line after the first judgment, two areas still do not meet EU standards (VRSA and Matosinhos) and "this situation may yet carry on for several years, which means that peoples’ health is at risk."

Brussels does admit that "some progress has been made" since the judgment of 2009, but the Commission says that it is necessary actually to do the upgrade work needed in the two areas singled out.

For the Algarve’s Vila Real de Santo António, the statement pointed out that three zones are not even connected to a waste water collection and treatment system.

In Matosinhos near Oporto the promised modernisation works at the treatment plant have not been started and thus a new system cannot be operational at least before the end of 2017.

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