HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc404-5W
Mr. Freud

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) whether he will list those water authorities which have applied to him seeking an exemption from the European Economic Community directive on the acceptable level of nitrates in domestic water supplies; and how many of these have been successful;

(2) what were the acceptable levels of nitrate concentrations in domestic water supplies in: France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Holland, and the United Kingdom prior to the new levels now required by the European Community;

(3) if he will seek to obtain European Community financial assistance for the purchase by water authorities of equipment to achieve the nitrate concentrations of 25 mg per litre or less in the domestic water supply now required by the Community.

Mr. Giles Shaw

The recently adopted EEC directive on the quality of water for human consumption requires that, from 15 July 1985, the nitrate level in domestic water supplies should not exceed 50 mg/litre, and we shall be discussing with water undertakers what needs to be done in the United Kingdom. In certain circumstances member States can allow exemptions to that limit. Meanwhile we shall continue to observe the 1970 World Health Organisation European standards for drinking water, under which 50 mg/litre of nitrate is the maximum recommended level and 100 mg/litre the upper limit of acceptability; there is no evidence of health risk at these levels. No doubt other European countries are also guided by the WHO standards, but I have no detailed information about the nitrate levels that currently apply there. I am always ready to consider any application from a water authority for funding from the European regional development fund for expenditure in an assisted area.