Under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), discharges of substances deemed to “present a significant risk to or via the aquatic environment” must be progressively reduced to a safe level. 33 such chemicals are currently listed for control. A further short list has recently been proposed by the European Commission, and the European Parliament is currently considering these proposals.
Some of the chemicals put forward for control are controversial due to their widespread use in pharmaceutical products and the large expense associated with their removal from waste water. The Environment Agency has estimated that installing the necessary advanced waste water treatment plant in England and Wales to deal with some of the pharmaceuticals being classified as new priority substances could cost about £27 billion over 20 years.
The Committee held an inquiry into water quality.