Published on Thursday, April 11, 2013
Some of the Mediterranean's most popular tourist destinations have water that is unsafe for bathing, new research presented by a Member of the European Parliament shows.
Ayia Napa in Cyprus, Halkidiki in Greece and Pisa in Italy are among 6,311 European towns and cities which are not fully compliant with EU water laws.
The report does not refer to beaches, but instead covers rivers, stream and canals where people might bathe.
It said the water failures could put the health of millions of people at risk and lead to the countries involved facing EU fines of over €1 billion a year.
Spain is one of the worst offenders, with over 1,148 areas not fully compliant with the Urban Waste Water Treatment directive, which came out in the 1990s to improve water standards, said the report.
The directive applies to the collection, treatment and discharge of domestic and industrial waste water.
The failures don't specifically relate to drinking water, but the directive covers such things as factory outputs into the water network, where the waste flowing from a factory might go into a river or stream which, in turn, might be used for swimming.
Where cities still source drinking water from rivers, lakes and canals, if the cleaning process isn't up to scratch, the drinking water might fall below EU standards.
Italy has 443 areas, including Pisa, which are not fully compliant with the directive, Greece has 22, Cyprus 57 and Portugal 201.
Eastern European countries also has hundreds of cases of non-compliance, but ironically even Belgium has 72, including in Brussels, home of the European Commission.
The UK was among the countries which is fully compliant.
Decisions on the spending of the EU Cohesion Fund, which helps to pay for environmental and infrastructure projects which improve water, are expected within months.
Victor Bostinaru, a Romanian MEP who presented the findings in Brussels, said: "This report demonstrates the scale of the problem that exists across the 27 EU member states.
"The quality of water in many countries has to improve and the money needs to be found to make it happen - starting with the city of Brussels, in which the European Union's institutions are based.
"As we prepare to commit billions of euros of investment to infrastructure projects, through the EU Cohesion Fund, we must demand improvements from these failing cities, regions and countries."
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