Report No FR0343

LEAD IN DRINKING WATER:
THE IMPACT OF EXISTlNG AND FUTURE STANDARDS
ON OTHER EC MEMBER STATES

FR0343

Dec 1992

SUMMARY

I BENEFITS

An understanding of strategies adopted in other EC Member States to achieve current lead standards and the likely impact of a lower lead standard will assist UK Utilities in formulating their policy should a more stringent standard be introduced in the UK.

II OBJECTIVES

To review the current position in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Germany with respect to lead in drinking water and to investigate the impact on these countries of a possible reduction in the current standard of 50 g l-1 for lead in water.

III REASONS

The current guideline for lead in drinking water recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is 50 g l-1 However, WHO has announced that this will be reduced to 10 g l-1 in the new guidelines to be issued in May 1993. There will be increasing pressure on the European Commission and on individual Member States to introduce a similar reduction in existing Directives and Regulations. A review of the current position on lead in water in four EC Member States and a review of the potential impact on a reduced standard for lead is therefore timely.

IV CONCLUSIONS<

All of the countries studied reported problems, in some areas, in meeting the current standard of 50 g l-1. None of the countries (particularly France and Belgium) appeared to have a clear picture of either lead concentrations in drinking water or the extent of lead plumbing still in use. These factors have hampered the development of clear strategies for reducing lead levels in drinking water. All countries, where feasible, treat water to reduce plumbosolvency and to some extent, operate a policy of lead pipe replacement. In France, Belgium and the Netherlands replacement is restricted to specific areas with a severe lead problem. Germany has introduced a policy of complete replacement but implementation is devolved to the states and progress is variable. General concern was expressed in all countries studied regarding the difficulties incurred if the standard is reduced to 10 g l-1. A programme of pipe replacement is seen as the only viable policy to meet such a limit, but concerns over practicability and the timescale involved were widespread. There are few signs at present that any clear policies are emerging to deal with a reduced standard for lead in drinking water.

V RESUME OF CONTENTS

This report reviews the position in Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Germany with respect to lead concentrations in drinking water, remedial measures taken to meet the current standard of 50 g l-1 and the impact of a possible reduction in the standard to 10 g l-1.

Copies of the report are available from FWR, price 15.00, less 20% to FWR Members.