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Thursday 29th November 2012 | 09:09
Conservative MEPs: Press Release
British consumers could face a huge rise in their water bills because of moves by the European Commission to force water companies to remove traces of some commonly-used medical treatments from rivers and lakes.
Conservative MEP Julie Girling today warned that the move to place pharmaceuticals estradiol, ethinylestradiol and diclofenac on a list of so-called Priority Substances would cost the UK water industry a billion pounds a year in extra costs, which would inevitably be passed on to customers.
Estradiol is a naturally-occurring oestrogen and is unavoidably excreted by humans and animals. Ethinylestradiol is an oestrogen used in birth-control pills and diclofenac is an anti-inflammatory commonly used to treat arthritis. All three substances can find their way into water-courses in very small quantities through treated waste water.
Now the Commission wants to use the established Water Framework Directive to force water companies to remove them from lakes and river-water.
The British Government has put the potential cost of compliance for the water-treatment companies at £20 billion over 20 years.
Mrs Girling, Conservative MEP for the South West and a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee, said: "There is nothing to suggest we are talking about anything other than a negligible level of environmental risk here. The Commission has not properly set out what benefits would be gained by putting these substances on the priority list at such enormous cost.
"We need robust evidence to show whether this is appropriate, but that has not been produced.
"The Impact Assessment Board was critical of the Commission's own assessment. It stressed that the costs and benefits of the options and the uncertainties around them all need to be made more transparent.
"Listing the pharmaceuticals as priority substances may sound environmentally beneficial, but implementation costs have simply not been considered by the Commission. Until that has been done, and until more rigorous scientific evidence is produced to support such a move, this measure is completely disproportionate.
"Labour seemed to agree with this sensible position until recently, but now they have bowed to pressure and supported this rash listing.
"Conservatives will continue to press for a more considered and proportionate response."