Novel RMs produced to support WFD analyses by Nick Boley

Scientists at the European Commission’s Joint Research Laboratory (JRC), based in Geel (Belgium) have developed a series of three water reference materials (RMs) containing priority hazardous substances (PHS) as defined under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). These three novel materials contain:

  1. eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),
  2. six polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and
  3. tributyltin

A recent report published under the Government Chemist’s Advisory Function on analytical measurement issues in relation to the WFD highlighted the dearth of reference materials to support laboratories carrying out monitoring of water bodies in support of the WFDs. These new materials provide an extremely welcome development to help and support monitoring laboratories in carrying out these measurements accurately and precisely at the very low concentrations required.


Watch List for pharmaceuticals established under WFD by Nick Boley

The European Commission has legally established a “Watch List” for three pharmaceutical substances in EU water bodies under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

Commission Implementing Decision 2015/495 lists the three substances diclofenac, 17-beta-estradiol (E2) and 17-alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2) for inclusion on this initial watch list, as well as Estrone (E1) a breakdown product of E2. This necessitates Member States making a series of measurements for these substances across a wide range of water bodies in order to ascertain if there is a potential problem. The proposed levels at which these should be monitored are exceptionally low – 10 ng/L for diclofenac, 0.4 ng/L for E2 and E1, and o.035 ng/L for EE2. The capability of many laboratories to measure at these levels is not proven, and the cost of these measurements will be significant.

The Commission has also proposed that some further substances now be added to this Watch List:

oxadiazon, methiocarb, 2,6-ditert-butyl-4-methylphenol, tri-allate, four neonicotinoid pesticides, the macrolide antibiotic erythromycin, and 2-ethylhexyl 4-methoxycinnamate. Monitoring for these substances, albeit at a higher level than the pharmaceuticals (between 9 and 6000 ng/L) must also be carried out, which will add a further cost burden to laboratories in Member States.

New EA approach to hazardous pollutants discharges by Nick Boley

The Environment Agency will be introducing more stringent rules covering discharges of hazardous chemicals in surface waters. following a partial response to a consultation on this subject which closed in December 2013 to amend the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

The procedure for screening hazardous pollutants in water discharges will be tightened, with the emphasis on the more toxic pollutants and is aimed to deliver compliance with the agency’s “no deterioration” policy which requires “control of discharges which cause more than 10% deterioration against the EU Environmental Quality Standard (EQS)”.

One of the main concerns about this change of direction is from those responsible for measuring pollutants in laboratories – including water companies. The methods of analysis available for many of the most highly toxic pollutants which would be caught by this change struggle to cope with the current levels as specified in the EQS and so there is a potential large cost to laboratories to gear up their procedures to cope. The ability of measurement methods to enforce and monitor pollution under any regulatory regime is an important aspect and should not be ignored.


European Commission asks Member States for Fracking Information by Nick Boley
October 27, 2014, 12:59
Filed under: Environment/Ecology, EU Information, Waste, Water | Tags: , , , ,

The European Commission have reminded Member State Governments of the need to respond to a questionnaire to inform DG Environment of the measures being taken surrounding any intention to permit exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

This follows on from a Commission Recommendation which discusses the minimum principles on this subject, and was issued in January 2014.

The questionnaire contains a wide range of questions, but some of them have a definite analytical measurement direction. For example, one of the issues raised in question 6.2 is whether baseline values for the presence of methane and other volatile organic compounds in water would be determined prior to operations commencing. Question 10.1 asks whether measures are in place to ensure that manufacturers, importers and downstream users refer to “hydraulic fracturing” when complying with their obligations under REACH Regulation – specifically with regards to chemical substances used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. Two points raised in question 11.3 ask whether measures are in place to ensure operators measure the precise composition of the fracturing fluid used for each well, and air emissions of methane, other volatile organic compounds and other gases that are likely to have harmful effects on human health and/or the environment. Question 15 asks whether measures are in place to ensure that the operator publicly disseminates information on the chemical substances and volumes of water that are intended to be used and are finally used for the high-volume hydraulic fracturing of each well, including  listing the names and CAS numbers of all substances and include a safety data sheet, if available, and the substances’ maximum concentration in the fracturing fluid.


European Commission plans new standards in chemical measurement for 2015 by Nick Boley
September 26, 2014, 10:04
Filed under: chemicals, EU Information, Water | Tags: , ,

The European Commission has published a list of areas where it expects to see new standard developed during 2015.

Three areas of are of specific interest for chemical measurements:

  • standards for analytical methods for water pollutants and certain biological and microbiological parameters to be used in the implementation of the EU’s water framework Directive (WFD);
  • validated standard methods for the monitoring of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); and
  • standards for the determination of flammability and the identification of allergenic substances in textiles

It will be interesting to see how these progress, particularly the proposal covering analytical methods in support of the Water Framework Directive where there is a clear need to develop methodology capable of accurately measuring key pollutants at the extremely low levels specified in the Quality Standards Directive.

We will keep an eye on this and provide further information as it becomes available.

European Commission Produces Recommendation on Fracking by Nick Boley

The European Commission has published a Recommendation (COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION of 22 January 2014 on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (2014/70/EU)) which covers high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The Recommendation highlights a number of issues which concern the use of chemicals in the fracking process, and the resulting environmental concerns. It makes clear the Member States need ensure that any chemicals used in the fracking process must comply with both REACH and Biocides Product Regulations.

There will be a need to monitor water quality where fracking takes place, in order to ascertain whether any chemicals used in the process have found their way into the water at significant levels. This will add to the workload of environmental and water company laboratories, and accredited methods will need to be worked up for any potential contaminants which are outside the current scope of laboratories water quality testing.

ECHA Consultation on Nonyl Phenol and Nonyl Phenol Ethoxylate by Nick Boley

The European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, has initiated a consultation regarding the placing on the market of textile clothing, fabric accessories and interior textile articles containing nonylphenol (NP) or nonylphenol ethoxylate ( NPE) that can be washed in water. This was initiated by a request from the Swedish authorities who are seeking a restriction on the use of NP and NPE.

Recent work by the UK Environment Agency has shown that over 90% of articles analysed (underwear cotton) contained NP or NPE and these were mainly imported from outside the EU. Analyses showed that virtually all the NP and NPE were removed in the first two washes. Accordingly, it is estimated that over 150 kg of NP and NPE may be released annually into the UK environment via washing machine effluent. NP is on the list of Priority Hazardous Substances under the EU Water Framework Directive.