Governments in each member state will then pay the remainder of the costs, in an effort to prevent vital products in the industry from becoming too expensive or scarce.
The new directive will ensure more nutrients are removed from urban wastewaters with new standards will be applied to micropollutants. The directive will also apply to a wider number of areas as it will also cover smaller agglomerations (from smaller municipalities previously) starting at 1,000 inhabitants.
Significantly, governments will monitor ‘forever chemicals’ such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and key health indicators in urban wastewaters, including anti-microbial resistance or SARS Covid in case of a pandemic.
“With the agreement reached today, we ensure not only cleaner water for all Europeans but so much more – better access to sanitation, implementation of the polluter pays principle and energy autonomy,” said EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius in a press release.
“These changes will completely revolutionise the sector and make it more resilient for decades to come.”
The enforcement of current regulations for sewage treatment has been difficult and slow among EU member states. In the preceding month, the European Commission referred Spain to the European Court of Justice for failing to comply with existing wastewater regulations in 225 communities.
The new directive will contribute to the circular economy by improving the quality of sludge and treated wastewater. This improvement facilitates increased reuse in agriculture, preventing the loss of valuable resources.
The next stages will involve formal adaptation by the European Parliament and the Council before the new rule can enter into force, with enforcement commencing 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the EU. Member States will then be required to initiate the implementation of the requirements, submitting their initial updated national implementation programmes in 2026.
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