Danube’s wastewater plants ‘oversized and unsustainable’

Wastewater treatment plants in the Danube river basin are “oversized and unsustainable”. That’s according to a report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), which gives recommendations to the […]

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By Jacqueline Echevarria

Wastewater treatment plants in the Danube river basin are “oversized and unsustainable”.

That’s according to a report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), which gives recommendations to the EU for improving efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability of the plants by the river.

The Danube river basin is said to be vulnerable to water pollution from various sources, stated the report.

It added the EU spent €7.9 billion for wastewater treatment projects in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia from 2000 to 2013.

Although the EU played a key role in helping the four Member States in improving wastewater collection and treatment, the progress achieved is not enough to meet the EU deadlines for water treatment, it stated.

The report added: “All countries incurred delays for complying with the rules and in taking up the EU money available. Although their plants generally treated the waste water adequately, their handling of sewage sludge and rain overflows was sometimes weak.

“A third of the plants are oversized and potentially unsustainable.”

The auditors also said financial sustainability of the EU co-financed infrastructure was “questionable”.

It added: “In 90% of cases wastewater tariffs charged to users were too low. They did not allow full recovery of costs by the plants and were below the commonly accepted affordability level of 4% of household income.”

They claim there is a lack of information on whether the infrastructure owners had built up sufficient financial reserves to allow adequate maintenance and the eventual renewal of plants.