EEA publish analysis on emissions and pollution levels in water

26 March 2019

Article: 53/1208

New European Environment Agency (EEA) analysis on data reported to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR), and under EU legislation on water, has found that direct emissions released to water bodies from Europe’s large industrial sites have decreased in recent years.

Industrial pollution transferred through sewer systems to urban waste water treatment plants (UWWTPs) has increased slightly, putting pressure on the waste water treatment infrastructure. While EU legislation tracks emissions from large industries, the extent of emissions from many small facilities remains largely unknown at European level.

The analysis focuses on the latest information for 2016, when around 3,600 industrial facilities reported at least one direct or indirect pollutant release to the E-PRTR database. Only those facilities with discharges above certain thresholds are required to submit these data.

The analysis also shows that industrial sectors with large-scale activities have a higher proportion of direct releases to water, which require more intense on‑site treatment. Pulp and paper, iron and steel, energy supply, non-ferrous metals and chemicals industry are examples of these.

Sectors with typically smaller facilities or less polluted waste water, such as manufacturing and food and drink production, tend to report higher proportions of their releases to the sewer system, often similar in pollutant-loading as releases from domestic sources.

The largest environmental pressures caused by direct releases of pollutants to water bodies comes from single large, or clusters of smaller, thermal power plants, coke ovens and chemical manufacturing plants.

According to a recent EEA assessment on the state of water in Europe, around 40% of Europe’s surface water bodies are in good ecological status, while 38% of surface water bodies have good chemical status.

Source: EEA, 20 March 2019