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Ireland To Be Prosecuted Over Lax Water Quality

Despite Ireland being held up as an example which New Zealand should follow, the European Commission is to prosecute Ireland for failing to stop nitrate pollution from farms affecting rivers and lakes. Maree Howard reports.

The European Commission said yesterday that Ireland was the only member-state that has not designated any nitrate-vulnerable zones. This was despite evidence that many inland and coastal waters in Ireland were suffering from agricultural pollution.

Ten years ago, EU member states approved the European Nitrates Directive requiring all countries to identify within two-years nitrate-polluted waters and designate vulnerable zones.

Action programs to control nitrate pollution from farms were to be drawn up by the end of 1995 but because Ireland had not identified any vulnerable zones it had not proposed any action to deal with the problem.

In a statement yesterday, the Commission drew attention to a "steady and worrying decline" in Irish water quality.

"It is clear that the Irish authorities have, over the years, taken an unjustifiably restrictive approach to the identification of nitrate-polluted waters." the European Commission said.

"By not identifying and designating, Ireland has avoided preparing action plans and the Commission is challenging the absence of these programmes," the statement said.

If the case against Ireland comes to court, the Commission is expected to ask for a financial penalty to be imposed on the Government.

The courts have previously imposed fines until member states fulfilled their responsibilities under EU law.

Ireland has also exasperated the European Commission by failing to implement rules on the disposal of waste oils under the EU Waste Oil Directive which requires the creation of a harmonised system for the collection, treatment, storage and disposal of waste oil.

The Commission claims that one litre of waste oil can contaminate up to one million litres of drinking water.

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