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European Commission releases proposal for amending the Water Framework Directive

News item · Dec 19, 2022 11:46:00 AM

EU water legislation shares an overarching objective of protecting human health and the environment from the combined effects of toxic and/or persistent pollutants. At present, EU legislation includes 53 substances for surface water, mainly pesticides, industrial chemicals and metals. For groundwater, the legislation lists nitrates and active substances in pesticides.

The amending proposal addresses two main problems: 1) an inadequate protection of ecosystems and human health from risks posed by ubiquitous and/or emerging pollutants and their mixtures, and 2) persistent implementation deficits as there is too large a variation in pollutants and quality standards designated at Member State level, which results in incomparable data. 

In order to address these main issues, a package of preferred policy options is presented. When it comes to our area of interest (namely, contaminants of emerging concern) the most notable proposals for surface water are:

  • adding 24 individual substances to the list of priority substances (pesticides, pharmaceuticals and industrial chemicals as well as a group of 24 PFAS substances)
  • changing the environmental quality standard (EQS) for 16 substances
  • developing a methodology for the measurement and monitoring of microplastics and antimicrobial resistance genes in surface water and groundwater, with a view to listing them as a pollutant in future;

As regards groundwater, most eye catching is the addition to Annex I (EU-level standards) of a group of 24 PFAS substances, two antibiotics and a range of pesticide breakdown products. Concerning the PFAS substances it's interesting to highlight the proposed standard for the sum of 24 PFAS is as low as 4,4 ng/l. To be continued…

The complete text of the EC amending proposal can be found here. The proposed annexes can be accessed here.

EmConSoil coordinator