Science & Technology Select Committee produce report on water quality by Nick Boley

The UK Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee have published their report on Water Quality: Priority Substances.

The Committee took evidence from a wide range of witnesses from all sides of the water industry, regulators, etc. Their report is comprehensive and considered, and addresses many issues which affect the quality of water in the UK. They were particularly concerned with proposed additions to the list of Priority Substances under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), those chemicals which are considered to pose a specific threat to human and animal (including aquatic species) health, including the pharmaceuticals ethinyl oestradiol (EE2), used in oral contraceptives, oestradiol (E2), used in hormone replacement therapy, and diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory. These three substances are representative of the complexity of this issue, as their use is beneficial to society but pose a hazard to aquatic and, in the case of diclofenac, avian species.

The report highlights these issues, which include costs, innovation and risk assessment. The report does not specifically cover the problems of measurement of these substances in water bodies, necessary where enforcement of regulations may come into play. The recommended maximum levels of some priority substances, particularly the pharmaceuticals, pose significant problems for analytical chemists in measuring these accurately and precisely in a cost-effective manner. Until this issue is properly addressed and any problems solved to an appropriate level, enforcement of regulations pertaining to these substances will be very difficult to achieve on a technical level.


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