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Slovakia struggles to meet EU’s wastewater directive by 2015

SLOVAKIA had promised to provide wastewater treatment in all its municipalities with more than 2,000 residents by 2015. But according to a statement by Slovakia’s Environment Minister, József Nagy, on World Water Day in mid March, it is unlikely the country will meet this commitment it made before its entry into the EU in 2004, the TASR newswire reported.

SLOVAKIA had promised to provide wastewater treatment in all its municipalities with more than 2,000 residents by 2015. But according to a statement by Slovakia’s Environment Minister, József Nagy, on World Water Day in mid March, it is unlikely the country will meet this commitment it made before its entry into the EU in 2004, the TASR newswire reported.

The minister also stated at that time that other countries of the European Union are having difficulties in meeting their obligations.

“Others are lagging behind these goals, which might have been set up as too ambitious and unrealistic,” said Nagy, who hopes the European Commission will revise its attitude in this area.

Currently, 86.3 percent of the Slovak population is connected to public water supply pipes but only 60 percent have sewage connections, according to Nagy, who reported that around 80 percent of the country’s municipalities have functioning water supply systems but only 30 percent have built wastewater treatment infrastructure. The Pravda daily wrote in mid March that this situation exists even though disposal of wastewater is more expensive in municipalities without this infrastructure than in those that have functioning systems.

“The side of having the comfort of tap water was more appealing than dealing with wastewater in an environmentally-friendly way,” Nagy stated.

The minister also stated there is an additional problem because some residents do not connect to the municipal system even after one has been built. He added that until people are economically encouraged to use the local sewage system, for example by having to pay a special tax on use of a septic hole or tank, some will fail to connect to municipal sewage systems.

One of Slovakia’s pre-entry obligations to the European Union was to provide urban wastewater treatment infrastructure by 2010 for areas with a population exceeding 10,000 citizens and to do likewise for areas with more than 2,000 citizens by 2015. Municipalities with more than 2,000 citizens as well as smaller ones can obtain funds from the EU for this purpose. Smaller municipalities can also request subsidies or low-cost loans from Slovakia’s Environmental Fund for wastewater treatment facilities.

Pravda wrote that building wastewater treatment infrastructure is expensive and municipalities generally are not able to cover the expense from their own resources. Even though municipalities can apply for funds from the EU as well as the state budget, Pravda wrote that the process is demanding and only a few villages have sought this assistance. Pravda reported that the worst situation is in Trenčín Region where less than 23 percent of the region’s municipalities have a sewage system, adding that a current €25 million project undertaken by Trenčianske Vodárne a Kanalizácie, the local water utility, should improve the situation.

The European Union requires what it calls “agglomerations” (towns, cities, villages and settlements) to collect and treat their sewage under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, according to the EU’s website.

Untreated wastewater can contain harmful bacteria and viruses and present a risk to public health as well as damage freshwater sources and the marine environment with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous which promotes excessive growth of algae, a process known as eutrophication.


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