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Kemira calls for tougher implementation of EU water treatment legislation

Photo: Robert M. Classus/Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Robert M. Classus/Wikimedia Commons
Published by
Simon Matthis - 21 Nov 2018

Securing a clean water supply will be one of the greatest challenges our world faces in the next century. Despite the fact that water treatment plays a central role in efficient and sustainable water use, much of the current European legislation on water treatment dates from the 1990s. Furthermore, the majority of Europe’s water treatment infrastructure was designed and commissioned decades ago. Since then technology has advanced significantly, enabling improvements in water treatment efficiency of as much as 20%. In a recently published position paper, Kemira calls on the EU to address these challenges from a regulatory perspective in order to ensure that future needs are met.

The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive, a central instrument of EU water legislation and a tool to improve water treatment, is currently under review. At present, water legislation is not implemented consistently in EU member states, resulting in potential risks to both the environment and human health. It is Kemira’s position that the requirements of the Directive must be implemented fully and equally across all member states.

Kemira’s proposal addresses many aspects of this challenge: full implementation of requirements, utilization of technology, tightening the pollutant limit values, and including new emerging pollutants in the legislation, as well as putting the tools in place for public procurement to drive innovative and sustainable solutions.

In some countries water treatment is much more ambitious and efficient than the Directive requires, while in others there are significant implementation gaps. Kemira recognizes an urgent need for full and equal implementation of the Directive’s requirements. For example, it is our opinion that the excessive transitional periods for implementation granted to new member states are unacceptable. Environmental protection should not be a subject for negotiation. Kemira firmly believes that it is the fundamental right of each and every EU citizen to have access to a clean water supply, regardless of their geographical location.

In addition to more efficient implementation of the Directive in its current form, there is also other low-hanging fruit in the form of existing solutions that can and should be implemented in order to enhance wastewater treatment. One of these solutions relates to climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions. Storm-water overflows are a major concern as they often contain untreated wastewater from both municipal and industrial sources, resulting in pollution and the spread of pathogens and diseases. Cost-effective solutions for the safe disinfection of overflows already exist and should be made mandatory at EU level.

“Lack of technology is not a barrier. Treatment methods already exist and should be adopted. With the technology available today we can achieve much better treatment results without increasing costs,” says Riikka Timonen, Marketing Director at Kemira.