FRANCE: water company to sell anti-lead filter to consumers
Vivendi Water has announced its plans to market an anti-lead filter to French water consumers. Developed in conjunction with Culligan, the USFilter subsidiary specialising in water filtration and softening, the filter, which attaches to a kitchen tap, should be available within two years.
“At the moment, we are taking the tap from prototype stage to industrial production. It should be no more than two years before the product is available commercially in France,” said Olivier Salva of Vivendi Water. “There are many tests to be undertaken by French authorities before authorisation is granted.”
The filter will be marketed to French consumers for installation on residential taps used for drinking and cooking water. It is expected that consumers will need to change the filter’s cartridge once every six months in order to maintain its efficiency and to prevent the risk of microbiological contamination.
Although there are no firm plans to market the device in other countries, Salva confirmed that the possibility had been discussed. “It has been designed for the French market, but it is a product that could be made available in other countries eventually.” Another Vivendi spokesperson confirmed the importance of the company’s move into the consumer products’ market: “It’s a major change for us and quite exciting.”
With the EU Drinking Water Directive’s schedule set, Vivendi Water is emphasising the fact that lead levels must reduce from the current French standards of a maximum of 50mg/l to 10mg/l by 2013.
According to Salva, Vivendi Water does not view the anti-lead filter as an alternative to the lead pipe replacement. “It is an intermediate solution. It’s something that we can make available to consumers so that they can benefit from reduced lead during the years when work to replace pipes is still ongoing,” he said.
France is considered the EU country that will face the biggest bill in its efforts to meet the Directive’s lead parameter. It is estimated that France will have to spend between euros 13-14Bn. The UK’s investment in lead removal is estimated at euros 10Bn, while Germany, Spain and Italy are each expected to pay between euros 2-3Bn. Denmark is in the enviable position of having no lead pipework to replace.
Asked whether Vivendi Water will seek to use its filter to avoid replacing lead pipes, Salva said no, but admitted that the filter could be used by consumers who want to avoid replacing their own lead pipework. “We will replace all our pipes, but our responsibility ends where a building’s internal pipe system begins. This filter is a way of responding to consumers’ desire for safe water.”
Such an approach is likely to sit well with the EU, which would not welcome an attempt by member countries to encourage use of filters as a way of avoiding lead pipe replacement. “From a legal point of view, a filter is not what we had in mind in terms of compliance,” said Ierotheos Papadopoulos, Drinking Water Directive administrator at the EU.
Compliance with the lead parameter must be shown by member states by 2013, and in cases of non-compliance it must be shown that this is due to the domestic pipe system itself. “If that is the case, member states must inform consumers and offer advice. It is up to the consumer, then, whether to replace lead pipes. It is often expensive, costing about euros 1000-2000.”
An exception to private responsibility for domestic pipe networks applies to public buildings’ water supplies, including hospitals, schools, bars and restaurants. Such buildings’ internal pipe systems are the responsibility of member states and, thus, will represent a significant cost in pipe replacement programmes.
In addition to the anti-lead filter, Vivendi Water is offering consumers lead-related services. The first is a diagnostic service of domestic pipe networks and their impact on consumers’ water quality. The second is the option of coating domestic pipes with a plastic film that separates water from any contact with lead. “It’s a good service because we don’t have to disturb people, but they can still feel safe from the risks posed by lead,” a Vivendi spokesperson said of the coating procedure.
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