Malta sends 'incomplete' bathing water data to EU - 1/6/2005

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Malta sends 'incomplete' bathing water data to EU
Ivan Camilleri in Brussels

Malta's failure to follow EU recommendations on the submission of bathing water quality data meant the European Commission had to publish a half-baked report on the subject.

In fact, the full EU report, published in Brussels, lacks data for Malta and a number of other new member states.

Sources close to the European Commission told The Times that in view of the incomplete information from Malta and other new member states, the EU was not in a position to publish comparative data listing all member states.

The sources added the Commission was hopeful that next year Malta would be in a position to provide data complying with EU recommendations.

The European Union attaches great importance to the quality of bathing water in its member states.

A specific directive on the quality of bathing water requires member states to submit a comprehensive report on their bathing water and its most significant characteristics. The Commission publishes this information by means of a report just before the beginning of the bathing season so that the public can get an idea of the quality of the water in their favourite bathing place.

In Malta's case, the Commission released a preliminary report submitted by the Maltese authorities while noting that "Malta did not send the appropriate data to the Commission".

Contacted by The Times, a spokesman for the Public Health Unit in the Ministry of Health admitted that the original report sent to Brussels was incomplete.

"This was the first time we had to format our report in a different way as per the EU directive. This took much more time than we had originally thought and that resulted in sending our final report late. This will not happen next year as now we know exactly what we need to do".

The spokesman, added, however, that although the data submitted by Malta was not in line with the methodology required, it does not mean the Maltese authorities are not carrying checks on the quality of bathing water.

Bathing water quality monitoring is carried out jointly by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which carries out physiochemical tests, and by the Department of Health, which carries out microbiological checks.

According to the preliminary information submitted to the Commission, the quality of Malta's bathing water last year was generally good, although the values for oil and grease present at the surface of the water were consistently above the recommended guidelines.

The report shows that the values of surface-active substances were mostly below the detection limit for the entire bathing season and the phenol values were below detection limit and compiled with guideline values.

All sites were monitored for faecal coliforms every week as in previous years. Once every fortnight all sites were checked for total coliforms and faecal streptococcus. A total of 87 sites were monitored and all conformed to imperative values set by the EU directive while 84 conformed to even stricter guide values.

The Malta report said that during last year's bathing season, the Environmental Health Unit launched its web page where all relevant information, including a weekly classification report, was posted. Information signs have been put up at all official bathing sites in Malta and Gozo.

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