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Chamber and committees

Question reference: S6W-03394

  • Asked by: Maurice Golden, MSP for North East Scotland, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Date lodged: 30 September 2021
  • Current status: Answered by Michael Matheson on 19 October 2021


To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to improve waste water treatment facilities to prevent (a) pharmaceuticals and (b) other novel pollutants entering the environment.


Scottish Water is working in partnership with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in the Chemical Investigation Programme (Scotland). Through environmental investigation this project identified chemicals of concern, their sources and concentrations leaving the sewerage system and how they should be addressed in the most sustainable way. The CIP 2 (Scotland) has provided a clear decision making framework for how compliance with the Environment Quality Standards Directive (2008/105/EC) and the subsequent revision (2013/39/EU) is to be addressed. To support this, an extensive monitoring programme of Priority Substances, substances with Environmental Quality Standards set by UK Technical Advisory Group on the Water Framework Directive (UKTAG)/Scottish Government (referred to as UKTAG Substances), substances of interest to SEPA (referred to as Watch List Substances), additional pharmaceuticals and sanitary determinands was conducted at 20 Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) within Scotland. At each site, sampling took place at the inlet to the WwTW, the final effluent discharge, and within the receiving watercourse upstream and downstream of the WwTW. The sampling programme took place between 2015 and 2020.

Pharmaceuticals are considered ‘contaminants of emerging concern’ and monitoring and assessing the risk to the water environment for many of these substances is still in the development phase. 23 pharmaceuticals were investigated during CIP2 Scotland. Following analysis with the PNEC (Predicted no effect concentration) the agreed approach with SEPA for 14 pharmaceutical was no further action. The agreed approach with SEPA for the 9 pharmaceuticals that were identified as substances of concern was to carry out a process optimisation study and to control them through source control. The next stage of this research, CIP3 Scotland, aims to carry out further sampling in relation to emerging pharmaceuticals and process optimisation trials at the WwTW in order to understand whether better treatment can be achieved at existing assets.

Scottish Water is also a member of the One Health Breakthrough Partnership ( ) which aims to reduce levels of pharmaceutical substances in the environment.