Parliament seeks to extend water pollutant list

MEPs have proposed 28 additions to the list of "priority substances" controlled by one of the water framework Directive’s daughter Directives. The move could bring them into conflict with EU governments, some of whom would like the whole set of concentration limits to be voluntary.

The Parliament’s changes, made during its first reading of the Directive on environmental quality standards in water, would require the Commission to review the existing 33-substance list within a year of the Directive entering into force.

The proposed additions include several pharmaceutical products and biocides, plus industrial chemicals such as bisphenol A and perfluooctanyl sulphonate (PFOS). Six of the substances should also be considered for inclusion in the list of higher-tier "priority hazardous substances", the MEPs decided.

The European Commission’s original proposals, released last summer, only set surface water standards (ENDS Report 379, p 48 ). The Parliament voted for an extension to cover concentrations in sediments and living organisms.

The Environment Department (DEFRA) held a consultation on the Commission’s original proposals at the end of last year (ENDS Report 384, p 38 ). The responses show that the water industry, its financial regulator Ofwat and the Environment Agency all have misgivings about the cost of the end-of-pipe treatment needed to remove trace quantities of widespread contaminants from sewage treatment effluent (ENDS Report 388, pp 38-39 ).

MEPs backed the concept of designated mixing zones around outfalls where pollutant concentrations could be permitted to exceed EU limits. But they said these should be phased out by 2018.

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