The Emerging Contaminants in the Context of the EU Water Framework Directive

  • Mario CarereEmail author
  • Stefano Polesello
  • Robert Kase
  • Bernd Manfred Gawlik
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 46)


The WFD (Water Framework Directive) requires that good chemical status of surface waterbodies is achieved by all member states of the European Union by 2015. The assessment of the chemical status is based on monitoring of the list of priority substances included in the Annex X of the WFD. In August 2013, the Directive 2013/39/EU has been published and contains a revised list of priority substances for the European aquatic environments and the derivation of environmental quality standards in the water column and biota: 12 new substances were selected through a procedure of prioritisation based on a simplified risk assessment methodology with the use of monitoring and modelling data collected over a period of 4 years. In the list of the 12 new substances, also emerging contaminants and some biocides are included. The Commission is establishing a so-called watch list of substances for which Union-wide monitoring data are to be gathered for the purpose of supporting future prioritisation exercises. For the substances diclofenac, beta-estradiol (E2) and 17-alpha-ethinylestradiol (EE2), the Directive has foreseen a monitoring obligation in order to gather data to facilitate the determination of appropriate measures to address the risk to surface waters posed by those substances. Furthermore, on the basis of the outcome of a study on the risks posed by medicinal products in the environment and of other relevant studies and reports, the Commission shall develop a strategic approach to pollution of water by pharmaceutical substances.

The European Commission, with the aim of improving the application and implementation of chemical monitoring programmes by the member states, has established in 2010 an expert group, the so-called chemical monitoring and emerging pollutants (CMEP). The group, chaired jointly by Italy and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, has operated under the umbrella of the CIS (Common Implementation Strategy) of the WFD for the period 2010–2013. CMEP activities were related also to the emerging pollutants including analytical methods, hazard information, levels in the environment and usage patterns. In this context, a pilot exercise on emerging pollutants has been coordinated by the JRC aimed at the feasibility assessment of an experimental monitoring exercise in support to the watch list mechanism in a collaborative design involving EU member state laboratories and about 200 official monitoring stations operated by the member states. In the context of CMEP group, an activity on aquatic effect-based tools has also been launched with the aim to detect effects caused by emerging substances not included in routine monitoring programmes. As a follow-up of the CMEP effect-based tool activity and the science-policy interface, an international project combining effect-based and chemical analytical monitoring for the steroidal oestrogens started in 2014 supporting national and EU monitoring for endocrine disruptors in the aquatic environments.


Chemical status Effect-based tools Emerging substances Priority substances Water Framework Directive 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mario Carere
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefano Polesello
    • 2
  • Robert Kase
    • 3
  • Bernd Manfred Gawlik
    • 4
  1. 1.Department Environment and Primary PreventionNational Institute of HealthRomeItaly
  2. 2.IRSA-Water Research Institute, CNRBrugherioItaly
  3. 3.Swiss Centre for Applied EcotoxicologyEawag-EPFLDübendorfSwitzerland
  4. 4.Water Resources UnitDG Joint Research Centre-European CommissionIspraItaly

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