This paper reviews the status of implementation of the 1991 EC urban wastewater treatment Directive in relation to its requirements for phosphate removal from wastewater discharges. Transposition of the Directive is satisfactory in most Member States as is implementation of requirements regarding collection and secondary treatment of sewage, with the notable exceptions of Belgium and Italy. A range of approaches has been adopted for the designation of sensitive areas under the Directive and designation is still not complete. It is likely that most Member States will have met the treatment requirements for sensitive areas by the end of 1998. Exceptions will include France and Spain (where implementation will be incomplete), the UK (which designated more sensitive areas in 1998 and will meet requirements for these at a later date) and Greece and Italy (for which sensitive area designation is lacking or uncertain). The Commission has indicated that it will examine compliance for both designation and treatment closely. This may place further pressure on Member States to designate further sensitive areas. It is estimated that currently in ten EU Member States, containing 90% of the EU population, about 375,000 tonnes of phosphorus are produced in domestic wastewater each year. In 1994 39-45% of this was removed in wastewater treatment works.

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