The documents include a consultation paper that sets out proposals for limits on 33 “priority substances” in water that were issued by the European Commission in July. The measures will form a new daughter Directive of the water framework Directive.
End-of-pipe treatment will be needed at sewage works and effluent treatment plants – particularly to meet tighter standards for heavy metals, benzene, biocides and chlorinated solvents.
Alongside the consultation paper is a partial regulatory impact assessment (RIA) on expected implementation and compliance costs. This says the costs for the water industry alone are likely to be “around £1 billion”, mainly due to the need to reduce lead and nickel levels in sewage effluents. The additional treatment will also produce an extra 8,000 tonnes of sludge per year – costing £1.9 million in disposal costs.
Reducing levels of lead, mercury and the biocide pentachlorophenol will pose the largest burden for other industry dischargers. Lead will cost £1.4-£2.6 million, mercury £200,000-£315,000 and pentachlorophenol £50,000-£216,000.
The majority of these costs will fall on the chemicals and pharmaceuticals sectors, the paper industry, metal finishers and textile companies.
But end-of-pipe treatment alone will not be sufficient to meet the proposed rules. Other measures, such as the phase-out of certain pesticides, could generate extra costs which are more difficult to predict.
Much will depend on how the rules are interpreted, particularly the water framework Directive’s requirement for “ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses” of the most hazardous compounds known as “priority hazardous substances”.