Greece may face hefty fines from the European Commission (EC) over its failure to adequately deal with urban wastewater and for its poor standards of wastewater treatment. The EC said last week that it has referred the case to court.

The EC is aware of the difficult financial situation of Greece but if it does not make the necessary investments to improve its urban wastewater treatment infrastructure, the state might end up facing higher costs in the long run, commented Pia Ahrenkilde, a spokeswoman for the Commission.

The European Union's executive arm stated that it had requested that the European Court of Justice impose a lump-sum fine of EUR11,514,081 and a further penalty of EUR47,462 for each day Greece is non-compliant with EU regulations.

RELATED: EU countries make progress in urban wastewater treatment

Greece was first warned in 2007 that the EU might take action over the country's inadequate wastewater treatment system. At that point, 23 agglomerations in Greece were found to be falling short of EU wastewater treatment standards. At present, this number is down to six and although new wastewater treatment plants are under construction in some of them, the EC is now seeking financial penalties for the delay in corrective measures.

Under EU regulations, construction works should have been completed in 2005 and the delay means that the health of communities living in these agglomerations is being put at risk because of exposure to untreated wastewater. The problem may also affect tourism, a key industry for Greek economy, the EC pointed out.