Science and Technology Committee announce new inquiry into water quality

19 December 2012

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 has agreed to hold an inquiry into water quality and seeks written submissions on the following matters:

  • What chemicals should be controlled in water discharges, what should the acceptable thresholds be and how are these chemicals currently controlled? 
  • What are the roles of the public, industry, regulators and Government in ensuring chemicals that pose a risk are effectively controlled?
  • Should pharmaceuticals in water discharges be better controlled and if so, how could this be achieved? 
  • To what extent is innovation in water treatment supported in the UK? How successfully is innovation shared across the UK and the EU?
  • Has European Commission taken an evidence-based approach to the designation of chemicals that present a significant risk to/via the aquatic environment under the Water Framework Directive?  
  • What likely impacts could the Commission’s proposals have in the UK? How could any adverse effects be mitigated?  

Submitting written evidence

As part of a scheme to promote paperless working and maximise efficiency, the Committee is encouraging written submissions for this inquiry to be sent by email and marked ‘Water Quality’.

The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by midday on Friday 8 February 2013.

Each submission should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length 
  • be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
  • have numbered paragraphs 
  • include a declaration of interests.

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA
Please note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised. 
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence. 
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

Information on submitting evidence to Select Committees

Image: iStockphoto

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