Press release

Water pollutants to be more strictly controlled as MEPs adopt legislation

Environment - 17-06-2008 - 12:55
Plenary sessions
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Use of 33 pollutants - mainly pesticides and heavy metals - likely to be found in rivers, lakes and coastal waters must be reduced or ended, depending on the level of risk involved. By 2018 Member States will have to reduce pollution from "priority substances", and ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses of "priority hazardous substances". This forms part of a second-reading agreement with Council and adopted by the EP with 673 in favour and 10 against and 5 abstentions.

The objective of the directive is to achieve good surface water chemical status. Environmental quality standards (EQS), which take the form of maximum allowable concentrations and annual average values, for 33 pollutants like pesticides, heavy metals and others are proposed. These substances may endanger the survival of ecosystems, and via the food chain, human health, says the report drafted by Anne Laperrouze (ALDE, FR).
"This directive will guarantee a higher level of the protection of water by principally applying the principal of polluter-pays and corrects." said the rapporteur after the vote.
More substances to be controlled by 2018
Member states will have to "make progress towards compliance" with the reduction or cessation objectives set by the water quality standards (EQS) by 2018. The proposed directive on water quality is the final piece of legislation needed to support the Water Framework Directive. 
Thirteen of the 33 pollutants covered by the directive are already identified as "priority hazardous substances". Heavy metals like cadmium and mercury are among these substances. Ceasing or phasing out emissions, discharges and losses of "priority hazardous substances" will be required by 2018.
In its first-reading, Parliament had wanted to phase out a wider range of substances, but the Council has only been willing to take on board the list of 33.  The majority of MEPs were willing to accept this as a first step, since some action was seen as better than none, with a further review already scheduled. 
MEPs ask the Commission to make a proposal as to classify 13 extra substances (including, dioxins, PCBs and Bisphenol) as "priority substances or priority hazardous substances".  
In order to classify these 13 new substances as "priority" or "hazardous" ones, the Commission will make a new legislative proposal in 2011. The EQS for the new priority substances will be proposed in 2013. Adoption of these EQS is scheduled in 2015 matching the deadline of the second river basin management plans Member states will have to submit.
Reducing the extent of mixing zones in the future
Close to pollution sources, it will not be possible to comply quickly with environmental quality standards. In these 'mixing zones', pollutant concentrations may exceed the limits, provided that they do not prevent the rest of the body of surface water from meeting the standards.
MEPs want to guarantee that Member States ensure the best available water treatment techniques when they establish "mixing zones". A description of measures taken to reduce the extent of the mixing zones in the future should be included in river basin management plans. 
Inventory of discharges, maps if available
Member States will have to establish an inventory, including maps, if available, of emissions, discharges and losses of all priority substances and pollutants for each river basin district or part of a river basin district lying within their territory including their concentrations in sediment and biota. These inventories will be part of the river basin management plans (to be submitted in 2009 and to be updated in 2015).
Member States sharing bodies of surface water should coordinate their monitoring activities and the compilation of inventories
Entry into force
The directive will be adopted in 2008 and will enter into in 2010 at the earliest (18 months of transposition).
REF.: 20080616IPR31747