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Water Framework Directive

Surface or underground water resources, essential for life, must be protected. This is particularly crucial for aquifers, whose remediation is always a complex, lengthy and costly process. Classified installations can cause organic or toxic pollution via metals, metalloids and persistent organic pollutants.

Initial actions were launched locally in the 1950s to restore the quality of surface water and fish life. These actions related to the reduction in organic pollutant streams. They were completed in the 1970s by the reduction in the discharge of toxic substances. Plans of action are now integrated into an overall approach to protect all bodies of water. Finally, these actions are completed by the requirements stipulated in case of exceptional circumstances such as heat wave and drought.

Directive 76/464/CEE of 4 May 1976 on pollution caused by certain hazardous substances discharged into the aquatic environment of the Community defines two lists of hazardous substances and stipulates that member States should take appropriate measures to eliminate water pollution by hazardous substances in list I and reduce water pollution by substances in list II.
It also specifies that, for list II substances, member States should establish pollution reduction programmes including environmental quality objectives and emission standards.

Directive 2000/60/CE of 23 October 2000 (WFD) establishing a framework for a community policy in the domain of water (designed to replace a number of directives, including directive 76/464/CEE in 2013) sets several objectives:

  • attain a good water status by 2015,
  • progressively reduce discharge, emissions or loss of priority substances;
  • and eliminate the discharge of priority hazardous substances by 2020.

The WFD leads to the implementation of plans of action for the entire water management process and related activities (industrial discharge is only a part of this process), through master plans on water development and management, structured around the notion of the good condition of the aquatic environment. These plans define, on the scale of each major water catchment area, the priority actions to be undertaken, notably with regard to the withdrawal and discharge of classified installations.

Pursuant to these directives, different national plans are implemented.

National programme of action to control the pollution in the aquatic environment by certain hazardous substances

  • decree no. 2005-378 of 20 April 2005 establishes a national programme of action against pollution,
  • order of 20 April 2005 stipulates environmental quality standards for 36 substances,
  • order of 30 June 2005 specifies the content of the national programme of action to control the pollution of the aquatic environment by certain hazardous substances; this programme remains incomplete on numerous points. The actions currently undertaken are based on the amended ministerial order of 2 February 1998. This order sets a minimum framework for the discharge of hazardous substances, including those toxic, bioaccumulable or noxious for the environment.
    The installations are monitored by on-site inspections of the requirements imposed and the implementation of scheduled unannounced inspections of discharge quality. The general public is informed of the results.

The action to identify and reduce hazardous substances in the water was launched by the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Spatial Planning in 2002 and was completed at the beginning of 2007.
Based on a voluntary approach, approximately 3,000 operators search for 87 substances or substance categories in their discharge. These substances should, in accordance with the water framework directive no. 2000/60/CE of 23 October 2000, be diagnosed with a view to their reduction or, in some cases, elimination.
The results of this action will be used to complete the programme of action determined by the order of 30 June 2005 by setting reduction objectives for substances that do not currently have any. They will also enable the adaptation of threshold emission values of certain facilities whose emissions have been identified as insufficiently adapted to the sensitivity of the environment.

With regard to the installations under the IPPC directive, a national action was launched in 2004, based on the concept of best available technology at an economically acceptable cost and on the sensitivity of the environment.
Reduction objectives are set by prefectural order following communication of the ten-year assessment report or technical-economic study on the reduction in discharge emissions, notably in bodies of water.