Protecting the sources of our drinking water
In 2016, NGI began a major European Union (EU) regulation project in the field of environmental contamination. The project was funded by Umweltbundesamt, the German environment agency. The project investigated the way in which persistent, mobile and toxic (PMT) and very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) substances could be accounted for under the REACH legislation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of CHemicals).
REACH is an EU approved regulation for chemicals, which aims to reduce the risk and improve protection against the use of chemical agents, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemical industry at the same time. Currently, REACH does not have adequate criteria for evaluation of the potential risks a chemical can pose to the sources of our drinking water.
The project developed criteria and an assessment tool to screen REACH registered substances for their PMT properties. They were applied to all REACH registered substances as of May 2017. The ECHA database of REACH registered substances contained 15 469 substances at the time queried, of which organic structures could be identified for 9 742 substances.
After assessing these, results showed there were 260 REACH registered substances (i.e. 1.7%) that met the PMT/vPvM criteria (Red/Dark red), 224 met the PM criteria (Dark yellow), 2377 had screening data requiring further assessment (Yellow), 3665 did not meet the criteria (Green) and 3216 had insufficient data to make a conclusion (White), as illustrated below.
During the project a very successful workshop was organised in Berlin for the chemical industry, water suppliers, scientists and regulators to spark discussion related to PMT/vPvM substances under REACH. Recently, two substances have been identified as substances of very high concern (SVHC) under REACH based on their PMT/vPvM properties. Use of these substances will be restricted over the coming years.
NGI was awarded a follow up project in 2019 to continue the work. In addition to classifying REACH registered substances up until the beginning of 2020, a field campaign will be carried out in Germany to assess the presence of PMT/vPvM substances in water. A follow up workshop will be organised and management strategies for certain PMT/vPvM substances will be developed.
The European Chemicals REACH regulation (registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals) is an EU wide regulation. These rules apply in Norway through the EEA Agreement and implemented of REACH.
https://lovdata.no/dokument/SF/forskrift/2008-05-30-516 (In Norwegian only)
Read more about REACH on the Norwegian Environment Agency's website:
http://www.miljodirektoratet.no/no/Tema/Kjemikalier/Kjemikalieregelverk/Kjemikalieregelverket_REACH/ (In Norwegian only)
Read more about ECHA (European chemicals agency) https://echa.europa.eu/home
Read more about substances of very high concern