Water: Pollution

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what research they have conducted into the pollution of watercourses by antibiotics for both humans and livestock in the last five years; and what were the findings of any such research.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Environment Agency (EA) monitors several antibiotics in watercourses as part of a surveillance network of substances on an EU Watch List. This dataset as a whole is collated across Europe to assess the level of exposure and prioritise substances for future inclusion under the Water Framework Directive. If selected, Europe wide environmental quality standards will be developed and implemented through this process.

The EA has over the last five years continued working with the water industry via United Kingdom Water Industry Research to understand better and quantify levels of antibiotics in pre- and post-treatment effluents from sewage treatment works. This will continue in the next phase of work due to start in 2020.

Together these have demonstrated that:

  • Antibiotics are present in effluents and watercourses and will need to be assessed against any future environmental quality standards.
  • Wastewater treatment processes in common usage remove a relatively small proportion of the antibiotics studied (compared to other substances in effluents) before release into the environment.

A study report, reference number 18/EQ/01/13, is available from United Kingdom Water Industry Research https://www.ukwir.org/eng/search-uk-water-industry-research-reports.

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