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Germany Bracing for Its First-Ever EU Fine Over Nitrate Pollution

The European Commission is poised adopt today (25 July) an infringement decisions package against Germany for continuously breaching the EU’s nitrates directive, after the country’s groundwater has been evaluated as being poor for many years because it contains too much nitrate. “The infringement decisions package will probably be adopted tomorrow,” said EU spokesperson Enrico Brivio yesterday. The reason for this is that agricultural fertilization is being administered via liquid manure, whereby the nitrate can only be taken off the ground for a limited amount of time, while the rest seeps into the groundwater.

Germany was taken to the EU Court in 2016 due to its failure to take action on water pollution caused by nitrates. The EU Court subsequently ruled that Berlin had indeed violated the EU’s nitrates directive, which aims to protect water quality across Europe. Having exceeded the limits set out in the directive due to the excessive use of manure as a fertilizer, Germany proposed a series of corrective measures to the EU executive, which the Commission deemed to be inadequate.

The German Association of Energy and Water Industries’ (BDEW) position on the matter is that the only solution was for the EU executive to mount pressure to enforce the full implementation of the EU legislation. BDEW General Manager Martin Weyand said that “the measures which have been proposed by Germany, are far from sufficient to sustainably reduce the nitrate pollution of soils and water bodies,” adding that BDEW “advise[s] the German Federal Government to follow the ECJ judgment and to implement swiftly the EU Nitrates Directive. Otherwise, there is a serious risk of billions in fines. These would have to be borne by the consumers for an irresponsible agricultural policy.”

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