Auditor General Charles Deguara has been asked to investigate how European Union funds designated for improving Malta’s sewage treatment facilities were spent as raw human waste continues to end up at sea, according to a press statement by Nationalist Party MEP candidate Peter Agius.
Despite investing over €60 million of EU funds in sewage treatment in recent years, untreated sewage is still being released from several treatment plants in Malta, leading Agius to call for a performance audit.
“Such funds were tied to clear deliverables to be attained, including the treatment of all urban sewage and the production of ‘new water’ for use of agriculture,” he said, calling for “action to protect the environment”.
“We joined Europe to secure higher standards. Instead, due to incompetence and lack of political will, the current government is breaching most of these standards, effectively depriving us from the benefits of EU membership,” he said.
Agius asked the auditor general’s office “to conduct a detailed performance audit on the spending of EU funding and the (lack of) achievement of deliverables tied to such funding.”
Agius said that only a few years after the launch of several projects intended to safeguard the marine environment, untreated sewage was still being pumped out to sea from the Ta’ Barkat plant in Xgħajra, the Taċ-Ċumnija plant in Mellieħa, and “with occasional readings of sewage overflow in the sea” from the Ras il-Ħobż plant in Gozo.
Last year, the European Commission launched infringement procedures against Malta with a May 2023 European Court Action noting how a lack of capacity in treatment plants meant “part of the generated load was discharged without any treatment.”
In his letter to the auditor general, Agius noted how, in just a few months alone, six bays were closed off or had warnings issued due to sewage outside safe levels stipulated by law.
He further noted that one of the deliverables, the production of ‘new water’ for use in agriculture, was being “misused to the general disappointment of farmers who now see it as largely unreliable.”