On December 18, 2019, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the recast Drinking Water Directive (DWD). The text of the final DWD is expected to be published within weeks. Referring to this recast, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced yesterday that the Directive tasks ECHA with compiling (and managing) an "EU positive list of chemicals that can be safely used in materials that come into contact with drinking water." These chemicals include substances used in materials to produce water pipes and taps, among others.

The currently applicable Drinking Water Directive (98/83/EC) refers to the Construction Products Regulation (EU) 305/2011 (CPR) for quality assurance of treatment, equipment and materials in contact with water. Some Member States developed national requirements for use of substances for drinking water distribution. This created significant disruption to the mutual recognition of "approved substances" between Member States. Since 2007, a group of Member States (Germany, France, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Italy and, subsequently, Portugal) worked together to find a common understanding of the applicable requirements.

The Commission proposal of February 1, 2018 for a directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption did not intend to tackle the status quo of the materials in contact with water. However, the text eventually agreed is expected to set up a requirement for a "positive list of chemicals that can be safely used in materials that come into contact with drinking water" to be established on EU level.

Based on the ECHA press release of January 14, 2020, a first positive list is scheduled to be adopted by 2024 on the basis of the lists that are used for production of materials in contact with water intended for human consumption in the Member States. This list is expected to cover around 1500 chemicals, which will be considered "authorised" pending the review by ECHA. In this process, companies are expected to proactively submit a review application to the Agency to keep their substances on the positive list. The Agency is, then, expected to reassess all those substances within 15 years from its publication. In the review process, ECHA will prioritise substances for review on the basis of (i) each substance's hazardous properties, and (ii) the quality and timeliness of the related risk assessment.

Member States are also expected to submit dossiers to ECHA either to have substances removed from the positive list or to have entries updated.

Follow-up

After the formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council, the recast DWD will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal.

As the Commission will start developing information requirements for applicants and assessment methods with the support of both the European Chemicals Agency and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its assessment, they will need to follow internationally recognized scientific principles on risk assessment, taking into consideration the migration of substances from these materials and articles into drinking water, looking beyond the hazard-based assessment. As already acknowledged by ECHA in its press release, this framework closely links to food contact materials (FCMs) – in particular plastic FCMs – and the methods used by EFSA for its work under the Plastics Regulation 10/2011.

Parties interested in these substances and their uses could seize the opportunity to contribute to the process of developing these information requirements and assessment methods as this framework will shape the review process. We will monitor any developments and be happy to provide updates.