European Commission makes steps to tackle water pollution but falls short on chemical mixtures
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European Commission makes steps to tackle water pollution but falls short on chemical mixtures

Released today, the revised EU rules for clean water target pollutants of emerging concern but lack teeth to address chemical cocktails effects, warns the EEB

The European Commission released a set of initiatives today [1] to speed up the transition towards a zero-pollution and toxic-free environment. The EEB welcomes the Zero Pollution package, including the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive and the Updated lists of surface and groundwater pollutants, as a potential step in the right direction but stressed that much more needs to be done to get to a safe and clean environment.

“Science is clear about the urgency to tackle all kinds of pollution and the Commission’s plan to tackle pollutants of emerging concern in our waters such as pharmaceuticals is much needed and, if anything, is overdue. The EU has committed to achieve zero pollution by 2050 and we need a speedy adoption of these pieces of legislation as well as an effective roll out across the EU, including making the polluters pay”, said Sergiy Moroz, Policy Manager for Biodiversity and Water at the EEB.

The European Environmental Bureau welcomes the revision of the rules related to urban wastewater treatment including the new requirement for producers of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals to share the costs associated to advanced treatment to remove micropollutants. The EEB also welcomes the Commission’s proposal to add 24 individual substances and a group of PFAS to the lists of problematic water pollutants that need to be more strictly controlled across the EU. Apart from PFAS, those include a range of pesticides, such as glyphosate, and several pharmaceuticals such as anti-inflammatory drugs. All these substances have well-documented negative effects on the aquatic environment.  

However, the EEB stresses that the new rules do not fully address chemical mixtures and do not hold all polluters accountable.  

"The new EU rules do not fully respond to the reality of the chemical cocktails present in surface and groundwater. We urge the European Parliament and Member States to strengthen this in the Commission’s proposal and get on with the job of making our waters clean. We all deserve healthy rivers, lakes, coastal and groundwaters", said Sara Johansson, Senior Policy Officer for Water Pollution Prevention at the EEB.

The EEB believes the European Parliament and Council will need to strengthen the weaknesses of the proposals to guarantee that Europe's waters are healthy for aquatic life and human health and to make sure that all polluters are made to pay.

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