EUROPE'S WATER Framework Directive (WFD) is too demanding and risks replacing water pollution with additional air pollution, a leading engineer warned last week.
Adapting principal sewage works for the directive across the UK would cost at least £20bn, warned Yorkshire Water head of environment, health and safety Tony Harrington He was speaking last week at NCE's WFD conference in London.
Harrington also warned that new energy-intensive treatment plant would be needed to implement the directive. These will increase water companies' carbon dioxide emissions by approximately two thirds, he said.
'There's a danger that the WFD will simply replace one form of pollution with another, ' he told delegates.
'If the WFD is applied to the letter it will drive some totally unsustainable investment.' Article 16 of the WFD demands that 13 'priority hazardous substances' are eliminated from aquatic systems.
Many of these can be caught, said Harrington. But listed substances like mercury, zinc and polyaromatic hydrocarbons 'are ubiquitous in the environment', he said.
'We could tackle many of the problem substances at source [by reducing pollution from factories, or by taking environmentally harmful ingredients out of consumer products], ' Harrington added.
'But mercury is put into the atmosphere by burning coal in power stations and falls back to earth in rain. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons make up every road in the EU and infiltrate rainwater run-off.' The only practical way of eliminating these substances would be at waste water treatment works.