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Maximum concentrations of certain industrial Mercury discharges


Directive 82/176/EEC sets limit values for mercury emissions standards in order to reduce discharges of mercury into waters in the European Union (EU). Furthermore, it establishes objectives for quality, methods of measurement and a monitoring procedure. This Directive is applicable until 22 December 2012.


Council Directive 82/176/EEC of 22 March 1982 on limit values and quality objectives for mercury discharges by the chlor-alkali electrolysis industry [See amending acts].


This Directive complements the provisions regarding the discharge of dangerous substances in the aquatic environment in the European Union.


This Directive:

  • establishes limit values for emission standards for mercury for discharges from industrial establishments * (See Annex 1);
  • sets quality objectives concerning mercury for the aquatic environment;
  • establishes deadlines for compliance with the conditions set out in authorisations granted by the competent authorities in the Member States for existing discharges (See Annex II);
  • sets reference methods of measurement enabling the mercury content in discharges and in waters to be determined (See Annex III);
  • establishes a monitoring procedure for discharges (See Annex IV);
  • invites Member States to harmonise their monitoring procedures in the event that discharges affect the waters of several Member States.


This Directive covers:

  • inland surface waters;
  • territorial waters; and
  • internal coastal waters.

Groundwater is the subject of a specific directive. Consequently, it does not come under the scope of this Directive.


‘Mercury’ is defined as:

  • the chemical element ‘mercury’;
  • the mercury contained in any of its compounds.


All discharges require the prior authorisation of the Member State concerned. This authorisation must set the emission standards that are at least as stringent as those provided for in this Directive.

Member States may grant authorisations for new plants only if these authorisations contain a reference to the standards corresponding to the best technical means available for preventing discharges of mercury.


Member States must ensure the monitoring of the aquatic environment affected by discharges from industrial establishments. When the discharges affect the waters of several Member States, the Member States concerned must cooperate in order to harmonise monitoring procedures.

The monitoring procedure is instituted in order to check whether the discharges comply with the emission standards which have been fixed in accordance with the limit values laid down in Annex I. This procedure provides for the taking each day of a sample, the measurement of the mercury concentration and the measurement of the total flow of the discharge over a 24-hour period.

The daily quantity of mercury discharged is calculated at the end of the month. The monthly total is then divided by the installed chlorine production capacity.


This Directive is replaced by Directive 2008/105/EC establishing environmental quality standards applicable to surface water.

Key Terms of the Act
  • Industrial establishment: the chlor-alkali electrolysis industry which uses mercury cathode cells.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 82/176/EEC



OJ L 81 of 27.3.1982

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 91/692/EEC



OJ L 377 of 31.12.1991

Directive 2008/105/EC



OJ L 348 of 24.12.2008

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 82/176/EEC have been incorporated in the basic text. This consolidated version has only documentary value.


Regulation (EC) No 1102/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2008 on the banning of exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures and the safe storage of metallic mercury [Official Journal L 304 of 14.11.2008].
This Regulation aims to ban exports of metallic mercury and certain mercury compounds and mixtures from the European Union. Furthermore, it aims to introduce an obligation to store metallic mercury under safe conditions.

Decision No 2455/2001/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2001, establishing the list of priority substances in the field of water policy and amending Directive 2000/60/EC [Official Journal L331 of 15.12.2001].

Communication from the Commission of 28 January 2005 - “Community Strategy concerning Mercury” [COM(2005) 20 – Not published in the Official Journal].
In view of the risks posed by mercury to human health and the environment, the EU has drawn up a strategy based on six objectives, accompanied by specific actions, aimed mainly at reducing the quantity and circulation of mercury both within the EU and throughout the world, and reducing human exposure to this substance.

Last updated: 26.10.2010
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