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Directive 76/464/EEC - Water pollution by discharges of certain dangerous substances



Directive 76/464/EEC has been codified as 2006/11/EC.

The Directive 76/464/EEC of 4 May 1976 on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment of the Community [scanned PDF file] was one of the first water related Directives to be adopted. It had the ambitious objective of regulating potential aquatic pollution by thousands of chemicals already produced in Europe at that time. The Directive covered discharges to inland surface waters, territorial waters, inland coastal waters and ground water. In 1980 the protection of groundwater was taken out of 76/464/EEC and regulated under the separate Council Directive 80/68/EEC (1) on the protection of groundwater against pollution caused by certain dangerous substances.

The Directive introduced the concept of list I and list II substances, which were listed in the Annex to the Directive, and which are discussed below.

The purpose of the Directive is to eliminate pollution from list I substances and to reduce pollution from list II substances.

List I and 'Candidate list I'

List I included a number of groups and families of pollutants from which certain individual substances were to be selected on the basis of their

  • persistence,
  • toxicity and
  • bioaccumulation.

In 1982, the Commission communicated a list to the Council (OJ C 176 of 14 July 1982, p. 3) that included 129 "candidate list I substances". Three more substances were subsequently added to the list to bring the total up to 132.

Specific Directives for list I substances

Up to now, 17 individual substances of the "candidate list I" have been regulated in five specific Directives (also called 'daughter' directives) setting emission limit values and quality objectives on a Community level. These Directives were the first mandatory minimum requirements for an approach based on best technical means (later known as best available techniques or BAT).

The regulation of other "candidate list I substances" was suspended at the beginning of the 1990s due to the preparation of a more comprehensive and integrated permitting system for industrial installations. In 1996, the Directive on integrated pollution prevention and control, the IPPC Directive (96/61/EC (2)) was adopted. The Directive includes the emission limit values for the 18 list I substances of the specific directives as minimum requirements for large installations.

List II - pollution reduction programmes (Article 7 Directive 76/464/EEC)

List II includes groups and families of substances that have a deleterious effect on the aquatic environment. It also consists of all the individual list I substances not yet regulated at Community level yet. As there are only 17 'real' list I substances, all the other 114 substances of the 'candidate list I' and the groups and families of substances listed under list I must be considered as list II substances. For the relevant pollutants of list II, Member States must establish pollution reduction programmes including water quality objectives according to Article 7 of the Directive 76/464/EEC.

Progress in properly implementing list II substances that are regulated under Article 7 of the Directive proved to be very slow. At the beginning of the 1990s, the Commission decided to start infringement procedures against most of the Member States. Most of the cases are before the European Court of Justice and there have been already several rulings against Member States.

The Commission has recently assessed the pollution reduction programmes under Article 7 of Directive 76/464/EEC in all Member States. An initial report was prepared in 2001 titled  "Assessment of programmes under Article 7 of Council Directive 76/464/EEC"). Two further reports are now available to on the implementation of Directive 76/464/EEC  in the transition period : "Pollution Reduction Programmes in Europe : Updated report" on the Assessment of Programmes under Article 7 of Directive 76/464/EEC" and "Achievements and obstacles in the Implementation of Council Directive 76/464/EEC" on Aquatic Pollution Control of Dangerous Substances (1976-2002)".

Transition to the Water Framework Directive

The Council Directive 76/464/EEC has been integrated into the Water Framework Directive.

Article 22 together with Article 16 of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) set out the transitional provisions for the existing Directive on discharges of certain dangerous substances (76/464/EEC).

In summary, the provisions are as follows: 

  • Article 6 of the Directive 76/464/EEC on the emission limits and quality standards for list I was repealed with the entry into force of the Directive 2000/60/EC;
  • Since 13 January 2009 onward, Annex X of the Water Framework Directive is replaced by the Annex II of the Directive 2008/105/EC (Article 10 of the Directive 2008/105/EC). The new Annex X replaces the first list of priority substances (Decision 2455/2001/EC) and therefore the "candidate list I";
  • Since 13 January 2009 onward, environmental quality standards settled by the specific directives (also called "daughter" directives) and listed in Annex IX of the Water Framework Directive are repealed by those specified in Part A of Annex I of the new directive (Article 11 of the Directive 2008/105/EC);
  • The remaining parts of the directives listed in Annex IX of the Water Framework Directive will be repealed from 22 December 2012 onward, according to Article 12(1) of the Directive 2008/105/EC;
  • Environmental quality standards established under the first River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) shall be at least as stringent as those required to implement Directive 76/464/EEC (Article 22(6) of the Water Framework Directive);
  • Until 22 December 2012, the monitoring and reporting obligations will be carried out according to Article 5, 8 and 15 of the Water Framework Directive (Article 12(2) of the Directive 2008/105/EC).

Under the Water Framework Directive, Member States shall furthermore set quality standards (according to Annex V point 1.2.6) for river basin specific pollutants (listed in Annex VIII, point 1-9) and shall take action to meet those quality standards by 2015 as part of ecological status (Article 4, 11 and Annex V point 1.3, WFD). For this purpose a programme of measures (according to Article 11) shall be in place by 2009, and become operational by 2012. This procedure will then replace Directive 76/464/EEC after its full repeal in December 2013.


Documents relating to Directive 76/464/EEC are available here.

(1) complemented by Directive 2006/118/EC
(2) codified by Directive 2008/1/EC and currently under revision