New EU rules on water quality published

Member states must begin to monitor levels of three pharmaceutical substances in water by September 2015, under a new directive published.

They opposed a European Commission proposal to set concentration limits for these substances during discussions in the Council of Ministers.

Anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac and two substances used in contraceptive pills, E2 and EE2, will be on a new ‘watch list’ of 10 chemicals to be monitored with a view to possibly regulating them under EU water legislation in future.

The list has been established under the updated directive on priority substances, which will come into force on 15 September.

The European Commission must establish the watch list by 1 September 2014 and update it every two years after that. No substance can be monitored continuously for more than four years. The commission must indicate “possible methods of analysis not entailing excessive costs for each substance”.

Updated environmental quality standards (EQSs) for seven existing substances including lead, nickel and their compounds will apply from December 2015. ‘Good chemical status’ in relation to these substances must be achieved by December 2021 through the second cycle of river basin management plans.

EQSs for twelve new priority substances including pesticides cypermethrin and dicofol and herbicide bifenox will apply from December 2018, while good chemical status must be achieved by December 2027.

The new directive tasks the EU executive with developing a “strategic approach” to water pollution by medicinal products by September 2015, including a review of the risks and of the current legal framework’s effectiveness.

A recital notes that “contamination of water and soil with pharmaceutical residues is an emerging environmental concern”.

The deadline has not yet been fixed for national authorities to report on the results of their watch list monitoring programmes. It will fall either 21 months after the establishment of the list, or by December 2015, whichever is later.

The new priority substances list will be reviewed by September 2018.

*12 new substances for which good status to be achieved by December 2027: dicofol, PFOS, quinoxyfen, dioxins and dioxin-like compounds, aclonifen, bifenox, cybutryne, cypermethrin, dichlorvos, HBCDD, heptachlor and heptachlorepoxide, terbutryn

*Seven substances with updated EQS, and December 2021 deadline: anthracene, brominated diphenylethers, fluoranthene, lead and its compounds, naphthalene, nickel and its compounds, polyaromatic hydrocarbons

SourceENDS Europe 

ECOS Environmental Consultants Limited