The amendment to the Water Act returns to the parliamentary committees

After the second reading of the amendment to the Water Act, the deputies have again submitted the so-called Wastewater Act to the parliamentary committees: maritime economy, environmental protection and local government.

On Wednesday, MPs heard a report on the government’s bill to amend the Water Act and certain other laws. It implements the EU directive 91/271/EEC on urban waste water treatment.

It will also make it possible to end the infringement procedure against Poland and avoid possible sanctions in the event that the European Commission (EC) refers the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Since amendments to the bill had been tabled at second reading, the Sejm again referred it to the Sejm committees: Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Environmental Protection and Natural Resources and Forestry, and Local Government and Regional Policy.

Non-compliance with obligations under the Waste Water Directive and increased financial penalties

Anna Paluch, the deputy rapporteur for PiS, emphasized that the law should be fully implemented by December 31, 2015, when the transition period ended, but that was not the case.

– By the date of expiry of this term, 31 percent of necessary devices, as stated in the 2015 NIK report. Currently, there are also deficiencies in the designation of agglomerations, the adoption of resolutions by local councils (municipalities) in accordance with the state water management of Polish waters and in terms of determining the requirements to be met by the agglomeration – said the MP.

Paluch recalled that infringement procedures are currently pending against Poland, which mainly consist in the failure of municipalities to take the necessary measures, as well as the lack of effective mobilization and sanction mechanisms against the oblige.

– The infringement procedure concerns 1,285 agglomerations of the 1,587 included in the fifth update of the National Municipal Wastewater Treatment Program (KPOŚK) – she indicated.

She said a section on financial sanctions has been added to the law.

PiS MP Mariusz Trepka emphasized that the bill will implement the so-called A “milestone” related to monitoring and control of the National Plan for Reconstruction and improving the resilience of the wastewater treatment system in support of sustainable water and wastewater reform. He says that the PiS Club has given a positive opinion on the bill.

– The Water Act has been in force since 1 January 2018. It has been known for a long time that it needed to be changed. For two years, the government did nothing to prevent the case from being referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union. NIK estimates that fines for these infringements could be up to €6 billion – said KO’s representative Artur Łącki.

He pointed out that municipalities will have to consult Poland’s waters when adopting investment plans.

– The KO request has not been taken into account and it is not known who, for what and how often, and with what frequency, municipalities can impose fines for legal violations. KO, led by state responsibility for the state finances, will vote for the law even if all our amendments are not taken into account – assured Artur Łącki.

Przemysław Koperski from the left noted that the estimated investments for the implementation of this directive in the entire Polish water and sewage sector are estimated at about PLN 44 billion.

– Under the programs, the state assumes the allocation of approximately PLN 20 billion for this purpose. That is why it is so important to properly fund local government units that have to perform these tasks – noted Przemysław Koperski.

Left MP Jan Szopiński pointed out that the sanctions that could be imposed by Polish waters affect the account of the institution imposing them and constitute its revenue.

– Is the ministry willing to consider hundreds of complaints about fines imposed by Polish waters, which could make the system of fines a source of financing the costs? We urge the ministry to think about this – stressed Jan Szopiński.

The draft Water Law Act also lays down the scope and procedures for establishing a multi-year plan for the development and modernization of water supply and sewerage facilities at local authorities.

It also presupposes the elimination of doubts about the form of subsidies granted to Polish waters from the state budget and the introduction of the possibility to allocate specific subsidies instead of only specific subsidies, and also provides for the implementation of the requests of the High Court of Auditors.

During the work of the committee, members adopted the draft with four amendments. Three of them were editorial, while the fourth – as stated by PiS MP Artur Szałabawka proposing the change – “removes doubts about administrative fines”.

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