EC proposes phasing out of 32 substances under new water directive

The European Commission has proposed that 32 priority substances be phased out under the recently implemented Water Framework Directive, including eleven substances identified as hazardous.


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The EC drew up the list on 18 January, which would mean that substances on the list classified as priority hazardous substances would be eliminated from EU water within a 20 year period. Some of the substances are well known pollutants, such as mercury, cadmium and the antifouling agent, tributyltin. For another eleven of the priority substances, including lead and several plant protection products, the Commission is proposing that a thorough scrutiny be carried out before the end of 2003 to ascertain whether they should be classified as additional “priority hazardous substances”.

The proposal comes shortly after the appearance of the new Water Framework Directive emphasising a high level of protection of rivers, lakes, coastal waters and the seas from hazardous substances (see related story), which entered into force on 22 December last year. Once the list has been finally adopted by the European Council and the European Parliament, the Commission will propose Community-wide water quality standards and emission controls for these chemicals. The EC said that it hopes for a swift adoption by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament of the list of priority substances in order to complete the re-organisation of Community water policy that started in the mid-90s.

“This final step of the long process to adopt and implement the Water Framework Directive is a milestone in water policy not only for the Community but also in a global context, ” commented EC Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “I am very happy to present a list of priority substances which includes the pollutants that we have to deal with first if we take our commitments for the protection of surface and marine waters seriously. We will tackle pollutants that we have known well for years and others which came to our attention only more recently. The subsequent measures will improve and sustain the protection of our aquatic heritage and will lead towards more integration of environmental protection policies because they will have an impact on other policy areas including chemicals, air, soil and industrial pollution.”

The proposed substances on the list which have been identified as priority hazardous substances are:

  • brominated diphenylether, found in flame retardants (see related story);
  • cadmium and its compounds, found in batteries and pigments;
  • C10-13-chloroalkanes, found in metal working fluids and flame retardants;
  • hexachlorobenzene, which is not used in EU but is an unintentional by-product, e.g. in PVC;
  • hexachlorobutadiene, which is not used in EU but is an unintentional by-product;
  • hexachlorocyclohexane, an insecticide;
  • mercury and its compounds, used in batteries, thermometers, tooth filling and the chlor-alkali industry;
  • nonylphenols, found in chemical intermediate and industrial detergent;
  • polyaromatic hydrocarbons, found in combustion by-products, metal treatment, wood treatment (creosote) and others;
  • tributyltin compounds, found in the antifouling paints of ships.

Hexachlorobenzene was also banned worldwide under the recent global treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants (see related story)

Among the substances under review for possible classification as hazardous are:

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