EU says Germany must reduce nitrate levels in groundwater

In a letter from the European Commission last week, Germany has been warned that it needs to reduce nitrate levels in groundwater, as it’s currently too high. If the environment and agriculture ministries fail to take steps to address this, it could face large fines.

The Commission says that Germany needs to take efforts to reduce these levels in order to comply with a ruling made by the ECJ in 2018. And if it fails to do so within the next 8 weeks, further proceedings may be carried out and Germany could be issued a fine of up to €850,000 per day.

This is a debate that’s been ongoing since 2013. All member states are required by law to follow a nitrate directive which gives limits to how much nitrate can be allowed in groundwater. According to the ruling, this threshold should be incorporated into national law.

In June, the German environment ministry agreed that it would meet the requirements; however, Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary of the German environment ministry said in a recent interview that “the Commission was obviously of the opinion that we were not fast enough.”

The German Farmers’ Union described the move as “disproportionate and inappropriate”, adding: “The Commission is tampering with the fertiliser regulation with an exaggerated urge for detail.”

“The crazy thing is that the Commission was informed about the process this whole time. It knew all drafts of the Fertilisation Regulation.”

“Yet, it waited until the Regulation was adopted in order to reinforce its old infringement procedure. This gives the impression that it was intentional in letting the process drive full throttle against a wall.”

However, the ECJ says that nitrate in Germany has been far too high in recent years. It says that in its latest report, which was put together in 2016, 28% of the points measured exceeded the upper limit of nitrate and this hasn’t shown any signs of improving.

Now that the ministry has been given a clear deadline, it’s hoped that they will implement the ruling “as quickly and as fully as possible, and to avoid a possible conviction.”

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