The European Commission has referred Italy to the European Court of Justice for serious and multi-annual environmental violations related to air pollution and wastewater disposal.
In a press release, the Commission said that Italy has failed to protect its citizens against the effects of pollution caused by smog, a lack of adequate waste treatment and illegal landfills.
Italy has repeatedly violated annual limits on nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in 10 areas inhabited by “about seven million” people, according to the Commission.
Air pollution directly causes both chronic and serious diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer. Ill-health caused by air pollution costs the economy billions of euros in lost working days, the EU said.
Last year, Italy was also referred to the Court of Justice over persistently high levels of particulate matter (PM10) in Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto and Lazio.
Today’s referral to the Luxembourg court follows Italy’s continued failure to reduce smog levels in its cities despite receiving an extension on its deadline to meet the requirements in January 2017.
Germany, France and the United Kingdom have already been referred to the Court of Justice for the same infringements on NO2 and several other Member States are also in violation of the EU’s air quality directives.
The second referral to the Court concerns Italy’s failure to comply with EU rules on waste water treatment. According to the Commission, Italy is failing to ensure that population centres of more than 2,000 people have adequate waste water collection and treatment systems in place, as required by the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.
More than 600 population centres in 16 Regions are in breach of EU rules on collection or treatment of urban waste water.
“Italy has not complied with EU rules in these regions for over 13 years, with significant risks to the environment and human health in a large number of agglomerations,” the EU said.