New Industry Consortium Focuses on the Materials Trade Barrier

Posted: Tuesday 17th November 2015

One of the fundamental objectives of the European Union, under the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU, is to allow goods to be traded without hindrance throughout all the countries in the Union. However, one of the areas in which free trade is yet to be achieved is in materials and products in contact with drinking water.

At present, if a company wishes to sell a product in the EU, they have to obtain approval from each Member State individually. As a result of historical, national, independent initiatives to establish test methods and approval procedures, 18 Member States have their own certification requirements, which vary in complexity. The different methods of testing and certification procedures, do not generally allow a product or material approved in one country to be used without going through a similar procedure in another. This delays the introduction of new products into the market and increases the cost of new product development and, ultimately, to the consumer, whose health these requirements seek to protect.

Sixteen EU industry associations, representing the pumps, pipes, valves, taps, fittings, water treatment equipment, catering equipment, etc. industries in the EU, have formed an Industry Consortium (ICPCDW) to press for the removal of this untenable diversity of EU national requirements for the materials and products which are used in drinking water applications.

The objective of the ICPCDW is for any EU industry manufacturer to be able to use the same test methods for product approval and to produce one test report, suitable for any of the EU Member States, and to move towards mutual recognition of approved products across the EU. ICPCDW are engaging and cooperating with the EU and national regulatory authorities in order to establish a sound regulatory basis for harmonised procedures for assessment and certification of materials in contact with drinking water.

At present mutual recognition of national certifications or test result is almost non-existent. Although there is mutual recognition between the Scandinavian countries and some acceptance of test results between Germany, Switzerland, Austria and The Netherlands, the impact is trivial in comparison to the wide differences between the countries with the most complex systems: France, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Spain, Czech Republic and Poland. This is despite the fact that supporting standards for almost all of the relevant test characteristics have been developed and adopted by each National Standards Body within CEN but, with the exception of The Netherlands and Germany, these standards have not been accepted into national regulations making their contribution to harmonisation valueless.

The 4MS is an unofficial collaboration between the regulators of France, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK which resulted from the abandonment of an earlier project (the European Acceptance Scheme) by the EU Commission, as an unofficial effort to try to recover some harmonisation of test methods and possibly mutual acceptance. Progress has been made particularly with positive lists but although significant consensus has been achieved, implementation progress is non-existent.

Industry is not adequately represented at, or informed about, the various forums which are relevant to this issue and it is clear that, in some instances at least, the relevant authority has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Against this background of lack of harmonisation and deterioration of the situation by introduction of new (and changes to existing) national requirements, the industry objective is to combine resources and expertise to engage with the relevant authorities and lobby for a rapid, effective strategy and timescale for harmonising national requirements for materials in contact with drinking water.

Since its formation earlier this year ICPCDW has been busy. It has already held discussions with the desk officer of DG Growth. Also a Symposium on Materials Certification, organised by EurEau, European Copper Alliance, Plastics Europe and Aqua Europa, was held in May and was attended by over 170 delegates. A follow-up Stakeholders Roundtable was held in October and a further one scheduled for January 2016. Given the size of the problem, ICPCDW, at the suggestion of Aqua Europa, has decided to address issues affecting plastics materials first and has formed a plastics materials task force. The plastics model scheme is based on EU Regulation 2011/10/EC plastic materials and articles intended for contact with food and the Portuguese notification 2015/234/P. A draft is anticipated by the end of the year.




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