An interinstitutional agreement was found this week in Brussels between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on a proposal to revise the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

Treatment of chemical residues

The agreement provides for a steady expansion of urban wastewater collection systems in the European Union, connecting many more households, while pursuing stricter and more ambitious clean water targets, in particular by eliminating the broadest spectrum of pollutants and nutrients.

"We reached an agreement on more ambitious rules on wastewater management across all of Europe, making sure that micro-pollutants from pharmaceutical cosmetic residues are treated, along with stricter nutrient removal requirements," said rapporteur Nils Torvalds (Renew Europe, Svenska Folkpartiet, Finland).

‘Polluter pays’ principle

Of course, all these new requirements have a cost! The removal of residues from pharmaceutical and cosmetic products — which is planned to become compulsory by 2045 in wastewater treatment plants connected to 150,000 people or more — will have to be paid by the concerned industries for at least 80% of the cost.

According to the European parliament, a national financing will come to complement the ‘polluter pays principle’ in order to avoid “unintended consequences on the availability, affordability and accessibility of vital products, in particular medicines.

The deal also provides that harmful chemicals such as PFAS will be monitored and better addressed looking forward.

The Parliament and the Council will formally have to adopt the new directive before it can enter into force.