The European Commission’s (EC) review of the EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) reveals shortcomings in its implementation.
As a result, changes in wastewater treatment rules will be rolled out soon, and EU members can expect tighter implementation regulations.
The Water News Europe reports that wastewater from smaller communities with a population under two thousand does not need a secondary treatment under the present rules.
However, the EC’s 2019 evaluation findings show that wastewater from small communities adds pressure to 11% of the EU’s surface water bodies and thus will require more treatment.
According to the article, although the EU provides sufficient funding for wastewater treatment, still some EU countries lag when it comes to implementing the UWWTD, adversely affecting their local environment.
EU countries like Greece and Spain have been penalized for not following the rules. Slovenia was taken to court by the EC for not complying with UWWTD rules regarding the appropriate level of wastewater treatment before discharge.
Changes to the wastewater rules
Following the UWWTD evaluation, proposed changes to EU’s wastewater treatment will include: separating sewers for stormwater and wastewater to minimize pollution, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants to deal with pharmaceutical waste and micropollutants, a polluters pay-principle, a circular approach in recycling wastewater, integration of green infrastructure and nature-based solution, integration of digital surveillance of pathogens in wastewater, and introduction of tertiary sewage treatment to protect coastal areas and marine life.
The infrastructure management ‘take’ on this is that in regulated utilities like water, wastewater, stormwater systems, changing regulation and environmental standards are often a major driver of additional infrastructure spending on capital, operations, and maintenance.
The new or updated regulation will set a higher service level that must be complied with and entails associated infrastructure costs.