The Environment Agency will add three substances to a list of water quality standards, expanding the number of pollutants monitored to protect human health and the environment, the agency said Tuesday.
In accordance with a proposal presented by the Water Quality Committee of the Central Environmental Council, an advisory panel to the head of the Environment Agency, the agency will add boron, fluoride, and nitrates and nitrites — two closely related nitrogen compounds treated as one item — to the current list of 23 items monitored.
The committee was established in 1997 to debate the need of expanding the number of substances that have water quality standards.
During more than a year of deliberation based on two years of studies of rivers, lakes and coastal waters, the committee reviewed 12 of 25 substances that are believed to be harmful to humans and the environment, ultimately deciding to move three from the status of “precautionary monitoring” and create concrete environmental standards.
Although the three substances occur naturally in the environment, especially in saltwater, they are also used in industrial activities.
Nitrates and nitrites are used in fertilizer, glass production and are known to cause respiratory difficulties in infants. Fluoride is used in steel and aluminum refining and is believed to cause tooth ailments. Boron is used in the production of glass, ceramics and enamel and can cause loss of appetite and nausea.
The water quality standards are not legally binding, but form the basis for policies to combat pollution and could be used in the creation of regulations under the Water Pollution Control Law.