Priority and Emerging pollutants


The Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC (WFD) (EC, 2000) set environmental quality standards (EQS) for 33 priority pollutants (PPs). In order to achieve ‘‘good chemical status’’ and accomplish the EQS for the PPs in all water bodies before 2015, Member States should implement measures to control their emissions. Apart from PS, Emerging Pollutants (EP), which may be included in the PS list of updated versions of the WFD, are also being considered. In particular, pharmaceuticals are a group of emerging contaminants which are receiving increasing attention because of their potential harmful effects for the environment and human health.

Implementation of the current and future WFD standards in terms of priority and emerging pollutants requires monitoring and controlling their concentrations below the established limits in order to ensure the protection of aquatic ecosystems. The main source of priority and emerging pollutants within the water cycle is the wastewater of industrial, agricultural and urban origins. Because most of the wastewaters generated within the urban water cycle are treated in conventional WWTP and these are not specifically designed to remove priority or emerging pollutants, their effluents have been identified as the main point of source in the aquatic environment.

The prevention of the emission of priority and emerging pollutants through wastewater treatment plants effluents into the aqueous environment requires the development of treatment technologies that ensure the quality of receiving water bodies. Given the need to overcome water scarcity and increase the use of alternative water resources, water reclamation plants and reuse schemes must also take into account priority and emerging contaminants in order to provide adequate water quality for the uses considered.