Chemical and Water pollution are among the main health and environmental worries expressed by EU citizens. The EU Commission proposal to amend the existing EU water legislation as regards priority substances is on the table of the Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI Committee). EPHA’s focus is on the draft European Parliament report.
About the EU’s Water Policy
The Water Framework Directive (WFD), adopted in 2000, takes an integrated approach to water policy that focuses on water management at river basin level, setting a target for sustainability in terms of the ecological, chemical and quantitative “good status” to be reached by European water bodies by 2015. In particular, the WFD sets out a set of strategies against pollution.
The WFD identifies a list of priority substances that pose a significant risk to the EU aquatic environment. In order to achieve good chemical status, water bodies must meet the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) set for these substances, the most dangerous of which are identified as priority hazardous substances (PHS).
The Commission proposal
Based on the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (EQSD) 2008/105/EC, the Commission had to report the outcome of its first review to the EP and the Council in 2011.
The Commission proposal updates the list of priority substances. It adds 15 new substances (six as Particularly Hazardous Substances (PHS)), revises the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) for seven substances and considers two as PHS, requires measurement in "biota" - the collection of organisms of a geographic region (or a time period) from local geographic and temporal scales all the way up to whole-planet and whole-timescale scales. The biota of the Earth makes up the biosphere.
Main messages of the draft report
In reply to the draft Commission Proposal, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) the European Parliament started working on the draft report, discussing it at its 6 September 2012 meeting.
In his report, the Rapporteur of the proposal, Mr Richard SEEBER (EPP-AT) welcomes the proposal and underlines that Chemical pollution in water is among the causes of the ever increasing pressure on the aquatic environment and on the availability and quality of safe and clean water for our society: enacting appropriate measures to control chemical pollution of water is therefore a central aspect of a sustainable water management.
Altogether, he put forward 28 amendments which mainly focus on the following 5 areas:
1. New priority substances
The relevant Annex X of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) contains 33 priority substances (PS) and the Commission proposes to add 15 new substances. Accepting in principle the evaluation of the Commission, the Rapporteur intends to maintain the proposed 15 chemicals in the text. However, the Rapporteur proposes to delete the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) for 3 pharmaceutical substances: the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) should be proposed in 2016 by the Commission, to better account for the latest scientific studies and for public health benefits.
2. Timeframe and cost-effectiveness of implementation
Stating that Member States are in the best position to assess the most effective measures to put in place towards achieving the objectives of the WFD, he proposes to clarify the precise timeframe for the implementation of the measures to meet the new EQS, and to promote cost‐effective measures that take into account socio‐economic factors.
3. Ubiquitous persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs)
The Rapporteur welcomes the provisions in the proposal allowing Member States to reduce the monitoring efforts for persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances that occur very widely in the aquatic environment and allowing for a separate presentation of their concentrations to avoid hiding improvements achieved for other substances. It is proposed to specify the minimum frequency of monitoring for these substances.
4. Watch list
The Rapporteur proposes to limit the validity of the list to four years, in order to avoid monitoring obligations remaining valid indefinitely, which will mean that powers delegated to the Commission to draw up and update the list can be revoked.
In addition, he suggests that a number of substances of possible concern (Amino-methyl phosphonic acid, Carbamazepine, Free Cyanide, 4 Glyphosate, Ibuprofen, Triclosan, Zinc and its compounds) be directly included in the first watch list since they may be of possible concern for EU waters.
5. Public awareness
Since chemical pollution of water is a main environmental concern for EU citizens, the report proposes information and communication actions on the results and impact of the measures against pollution of surface waters, in particular by establishing websites providing access to the River Basin Management Plans set up by Member States. These measures aim to foster public awareness and avoid sending misleading messages to the public.
The rapporteur outlined the need to consult with relevant stakeholders so he organised two stakeholder hearings with some civil organisations and industrial representatives.
Forthcoming documents of the related ENVI Committee dossiers are available on the European Parliament’s (EP) website
EPHA is closely monitoring the developments of this dossier and is working on communicating its opinion on the Commission’s Proposal and on the EP draft report to the relevant stakeholders in the EP in form of amendments.