Back in 2016 the European Commission referred Germany to the Court of Justice of the European Union because the country failed to take action on water pollution caused by nitrates. On the 21st of June, the Court has ruled that Germany has breached EU law by exceeding the limits set out in the EU’s Nitrates Directive because of excessive use of manure as a fertiliser.
The Nitrates Directive stipulates that nitrate concentration in water must not be higher than 50 milligrams per litre. In 2016 Germany admitted that this limit was exceeded in 28% of its groundwater monitoring stations. One year later, the German federal government implemented new restrictions and established fertiliser-free areas but the Court has deemed these efforts still insufficient.
High levels of nitrate in water can be dangerous to human health as well as to freshwater- and marine ecosystems. Excessive nitrate levels cause eutrophication and algae blooms, which pose a threat to fish, wildlife and biodiversity.
If the federal government doesn’t take measures to comply with the Court ruling, the European Commission may impose fines on Germany through the penalty procedure.
EAA comment: EAA warmly welcomes this ruling. It is worth noticing that Denmark intervened in support of Germany at the Court. Denmark also has compliance difficulties with the Nitrates Directive.
The CJEU ruling is available here.
More information about the infringement procedure launched in 2016 is available here.