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<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

6.6 Policy and institutional framework (Topic f)

6.6.1 Policy and standards

This Section gives primary attention to the development of wastewater and stormwater management in the context of policy and standards of the European Union.

The Treaty on European Union entered into force in 1983 and established environmental policy as one of the Union’s task and linked sustainable growth to the need to respect the environment. The aims of this policy were to protect and improve the quality of the environment, to protect the health of the population, to make careful and rational use of natural resources, and to promote measures at the international level to overcome regional and broader-scale environmental problems. Instruments to pursue these aim were created, including:

  • legal acts (primarily directives and quality standards for the environment), process standards (emission standards, design standards and operating standards), and product standards (maximum tolerable pollution levels or emission levels for a product).
  • Action programs on environmental protection.
  • Support programmes.

By now, all Western European countries have adopted national legislation for the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater. However, of interest to administrators and scientist in other parts of the world at this particular time is the policy and legislation of the European Union rather than national legislation. Two types of EU legislation are of special interest:

  • Regulations: They are the strongest form of Community legislation and have general application, are binding in their entirety and are directly applicable in all Member States.
  • Directives: A Directive is a legal instrument by which the Council or the Commission can require the Member States to amend or adopt their national legislation by a specific deadline in order to achieve the aims set out in the Directive.

The European Council consists of the Heads of State or Governments is the Union´s supreme decision-making body. In contrast, the European Commission is its management arm and ensures the functioning and development of the Community. It is made up of the Commissioners and the administrative machinery that is under its control. Among the 26 Directorates-General, environmental matters are the responsibility of "DG IX" (the Directorate-General for Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection) which also controls the European Environment Agency (EEA) which is located in Copenhagen.

Water pollution control

Water pollution control is one of the major subjects of the forthcoming EU-Directive establishing a “Framework for Community action in the field of water policy’E (EEC 2000). The Directive concerns surface fresh water, estuaries and costal waters, and groundwater. It lays down environmental quality though not limit values for pollution emissions with the exception of existing requirements, e.g. the "limit values" and "quality objectives" already established under the Dangerous Substances Directive of 1976 for mercury, cadmium, and hexachlorocyclohexane discharges. However, the Directive contains detailed Annexes dealing with immissions in surface waters, groundwater, and costal waters.

The overall purpose of the Directive is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface water, transitional waters, coastal water and groundwater which, inter alia,

  • prevents further deterioration and protects and enhances the status of aquatic ecosystems;
  •                                                                                           
  • promotes sustainable water use based on long-term protection of available water resources;
  • aims at enhancing protection and improvement of the aquatic environment though specific measures for the progressive reduction of emissions, discharges and losses of hazardous substances based on the prioritisation of those of greatest concern.
  • Moving towards the target of cessation of discharges, emissions and losses of hazardous substances by the year 2020, with the ultimate aim of achieving concentrations in the marine environment near background values for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for man-made synthetic substances.

The following concepts and procedures are noteworthy principal approaches stipulated in the Directive:

  • Waster management via River Basin Districts.
  • Assessment of the characteristics of each water-catchment area.
  • Monitoring of the chemical, ecological and/or quantitative state of surface waters and groundwater in each water-catchment basin.
  • Monitoring of protected areas within each water-catchment basin.
  • Pollution-measurement programmes, including mandatory and optional measurements.
  • Incorporation of all the above factors in a water-catchment basin management plan.
  • Public consultation.

Of special interest is the provision that within each River Basin District, all bodies of water shall be identified which are used (and intended for future use) for the abstraction of water intended for human consumption providing more than 10 m3 a day or serving more than fifty persons. Further, Member States shall ensure that under the water treatment regime applied, the resulting water will me the requirements of other concerned Directives of the EU; and still further, Member States shall ensure the necessary protection of water bodies so identified with the aim towards a reduction of the purification and pre-treatment needed in the production of drinking water.

The Directive identifies specific measures to be adapted by the Member States where the environmental quality standards are no longer met or where there is accidental pollution. It also puts forward a procedure for the notification and the exchange of information between Member States and the Commission and the EEA concerning management plans and draft management plans and other programmes referred to in the Directive.

It is important to note that the Directive requires Member States to ensure by 2010, a charging system for water services, which acts as an incentive for the sustainable use of water resource, and also that the various sectors of the economy, a distinction being drawn at least between domestic industrial and agricultural users, contribute fairly to the recovery of all the costs of water services having regard to the economic analysis conducted in accordance with the polluter pays principle.

River basin management plans are required for each river basin district. Special provision is made for international river basin districts falling entirely within the Community or extending beyond its boundaries.

The Directive also contains provisions for public information and consultation, reporting by the Commission on the implementation of the Directive, penalties, and a time table for action by Member States to bring into force the (national) laws, regulations and administrative provisions to comply with the Directive at the latest 3 years after it entered into force.

Urban wastewater collection and treatment

The basic legislation for the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater in Western Europe is the Directive 91/271 of the EU Council of 21 May 1991 (EEC 1991), as amended by Commission Directive 98/15 of 27 February 1998. The Directive stipulates that Member States shall ensure that all agglomerations are provided with collection systems, and that the wastewater shall before discharge be subject to secondary treatment or an equivalent treatment as follows:

  • Collection systems shall be provided at the latest by 31 December 2000 for agglomerations with a population equivalent (pe) of more then 15000, and, at the latest by 31 December 2005 for those with a pe of between 2000 and 15000.
  • Secondary treatment or equivalent shall be provided by 31 December 2000 for all discharges from agglomeration of more the 15000 pe, and at the latest by 31 December 2005 from between 10000 and 15000 pe, and no later than 31 December 2005 for discharges to fresh-water and estuaries from between 2000 and 10000 pe.
  • Moreover, the Directive stipulates further requirements for the removal of BOD5, nitrogen and phosphorous depending on whether the discharge occurs into a “normal area’Eor a “sensitive area’E Responsibility for the identification of such areas rests with the Member States.

More specifically, the degree of treatment to be provided before discharge is exhibited in Table 6.12 unless Member States relax them in the light of local conditions.

Table 6.12: Collection systems, treatment requirements and time frames under Directive 91/271/EEC

Size of area
 
Type of area
Les than 2000
pe
 
2000 to 10000
pe
 
10000 to 15000
pe
 
15000 to
150000 pe
 
More than
150000 pe
 
Sentitive Collection syst. if any 2005
Appropriate treatment
Collection systems 2005
Secondary treatment
Collection systems 1998
Teriary treatment
Collection systems 1998
Teriary treatment
Collection systems 1998
Teriary treatment
Normal Collection syst, if any 2005
Appropriate treatment
Collection systems 2005
Secondary treatment
Collection systems 2005
Secondary treatment
Collection systems 2000
Secondary treatment
Collection systems 2000
Secondary treatment
Less sensitive
(Costal water)
Collection syst. if any 2005
Appropriate treatment
Collection systems 2005
Appropriate treatment
Collection systems 2005
Primary or secondary treatment
Collection systems 2000
Primary or secondary treatment
Collection systems 2000
Secondary treatment
Source: EEC, 1991

 

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