• France's news in English

EU court condemns France for dirty water

Joshua Melvin · 4 Sep 2014, 13:57

Published: 04 Sep 2014 13:57 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The ruling from the court on Thursday says lax French rules hadn't done enough to keep farm fertilizer from running off into water sources, which could mean millions in fines if France doesn't toughen up its regulations.

According to the court, the heart of the problem is France's failure to follow European Union rules which limit when and how fertilizers, like liquid manure, can be spread on crops.

The purpose of the limits, in place since 1991, is to keep nitrates out of water sources, especially those bound for human consumption.

High nitrate levels in drinking water are particularly dangerous for infants and pregnant mothers, because the contaminant can provoke a potentially fatal condition called "Blue Baby Syndrome."

France must toughen up in areas like the length of the window when nitrates can be used and the quantities of manure allowed to be spread, or face the risk the EU will seek millions in fines.

Advocates for cleaner water in France applauded the court's ruling and urged the government to take action quickly.

"This latest conviction is obviously not a surprise as successive governments have procrastinated and ignored their responsibilities," environmental group Eau & Rivières said in a statement. "It's urgent that we change gears if we want to avoid paying astronomical fines."

France was already found guilty in 2013 of violating European Union rules on nitrate run off and in 2001 for an excessive amount of nitrates in water sources in Brittany in western France.

French officials are well aware they have a problem with their water supply. In fact, consumer watchdog group UFC-Que Choisir recently released a report saying nearly 1.5 million French people drink polluted tap water.

The study revealed by-products of agriculture are the main cause of the contaminated ground water being consumed in France, particularly outside urban areas.

Story continues below…

According to the study most substandard water in France is loaded with pesticides and nitrates from fertilizer and livestock manure. That is the case in 63 percent of instances where homes receive polluted water - which represents around 900,000 people.

However pesticides and nitrates are not the only substances polluting French water.

The study also pointed to the presence of selenium, a natural, but toxic, substance that appears when groundwater supplies are over used.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half British person can answer
Photo: Beery/Flickr/AFP

Being half French, half British is means you get asked a lot of questions (and some of them can be a little annoying.)

Migrants bussed out of Calais Jungle to all corners of France
All photos: AFP

Hundreds of migrants are being bussed across France on Monday ahead of the demolition of the Jungle camp.

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
A Prophet. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

Looking for something to watch?

The must-see French films of the millennium - Part Two
Rust and Bone. Photo: YouTube Screengrab

The newest French films you need to see before you die (or alternatively when you get some spare time).

Election Watch
Presidential hopeful reckons a pain au chocolat is 10 cents

So France happily takes the pastry out of him.

French ministry of defence officials die in plane crash
Screengrab: eddydeg/Twitter

The French Ministry of Defence officials were killed on Monday when a light aircraft went down on the island of Malta.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available