Welsh consult on drinking water, English rules amended

A consultation on implementing the 1998 EU Directive on drinking water quality has been launched by the Welsh Assembly - nine months after the implementation deadline passed.1

The Directive, which tightened standards for some contaminants but introduced a more flexible compliance regime, was implemented in England last December (ENDS Report 311, p 41 ). The regulations do not, as we reported at the time, apply to Wales.

Scotland implemented the Directive this year, but delays in transposition in the rest of the UK have left it open to infraction proceedings by the European Commission. The Welsh consultation lasts until 26 October, with regulations likely to follow two or three months later.

The Welsh regulations will be identical to those in England. The capital costs of complying with the Directive are put at £11 million till March 2005, with extra operating costs of £1 million per year. Costs may rise after 2005, depending on the scale of any lead pipe replacement programme needed to comply with tighter standards for lead which are phased in by 2013.

Meanwhile, amendments to the English regulations came into force on 5 September.2 Most of these correct errors in last December's rules.

Among the more significant amendments is a provision enabling criminal proceedings to be taken after 1 October where a water company supplies drinking water without having established that there is no significant risk from cryptosporidium oocysts in the supply or, if there is such a risk, without having taken steps to control it.

A further amendment will require water companies to notify each local authority and health authority of a drinking water incident which may give rise to a significant risk to the health of people in their areas. Last year's regulations limited the notification duty to authorities in whose areas an incident occurs.

A third amendment makes it clear that water will be "unwholesome" if it contains a micro-organism or substance covered by an "indicator" parameter at a concentration posing a potential danger to health.

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