Despite the fact that the WFD’s main target is achieving ‘good status’ for all UK surface and ground waters by 2015 – a date which for many may still seem a long way off - the pace of change is set to increase between now and 2009. Last summer, the European Commission proposed a Directive setting environmental standards for priority hazardous substances in surface waters. These limits will have to be met by 2015 and discharges of priority hazardous substances phased out by 2025. In addition, the Working Together consultation covering all river basin districts is expected to close this summer, after which the first draft river basin management plans will be produced, to be finalised by December 2009.
Against this backdrop of change, the new Groundwater Directive was published in January 2007. One of a series of WFD daughter directives, this Directive establishes specific measures to prevent and control groundwater pollution. The measures include new criteria to assess good chemical status of groundwater and to identify significant changes. It also includes measures to prevent or limit inputs of pollutants in order to prevent groundwater deterioration.
Philip Whittaker, Air Products’ business development lead for water systems, comments:
“The WFD and new Groundwater Directive together provide a new far-reaching regulatory framework for the protection of surface and groundwater, establishing quality standards and emissions limits to be met by water companies and industrial water users.
“The changes that are now being implemented are designed to protect the water environment and while in most cases the standards are already being met, the legislation will nevertheless require a comprehensive review of water treatment and management systems and in some cases upgrades may be needed.”
In some parts of the UK, where population is particularly dense or where there is widespread use of intensive agriculture and a history of heavy manufacturing industry, some may fail to meet the required standard by 2015.
Philip Whittaker comments:
“Water companies and processing industries need to keep an open mind when it comes to wastewater treatment and regard the directive as an opportunity to drive efficiency by upgrading existing systems.
“For some, a new high performance oxygen-based aeration system could be the answer as it can be retro-fitted relatively simply, avoiding the need to drain down existing treatment tanks. Where groundwater treatment is required, oxygen aeration can be used in situ or the affected water can be piped away into a tank for treatment.
“Oxygen aeration also provides a more flexible, long term solution, capable of reducing oxygen demand and so helping to treat effluent by removing contaminants before their release to the water environment.”