Compared with many other countries, Norway’s water resources are relatively unaffected by pollution from road traffic. In some places, however, encroachments and pollution are a concrete threat to water and watercourses.
In 2007, the EU’s Water Framework Directive was implemented in Norwegian law (the Water Regulations). The aim of the Water Regulations is to coordinate all affected authorities and to achieve good ecological and chemical water quality by 2021. In addition, it is the express policy of the Norwegian Government that Norway is to set an example in terms of preventing environmental pollutants from harming health and the environment. In this context, the Government has proposed that a number of environmental pollutants be listed on what is called the ‘priority list of the most hazardous substances’. High concentrations have been found of several of the substances on this list, including some metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in runoff water from roads and tunnel wash water. Road runoff is a key problem area, and the NPRA is expected to contribute to this work as part of our environmental sector responsibility.
The NPRA has discovered a clear connection between elevated concentrations of copper in lakes and the lakes’ proximity to roads. It has also found that young sea trout in the lower parts of the Årungselva river in Akershus county have a slower growth rate than the trout living in the upper parts of the river, which can be ascribed to contaminated runoff water and tunnel wash water from the E6 road. This is despite that fact that a sedimentation pond has been established. Environmental harm has been documented during road construction work, downstream treatment facilities and in lakes near roads without any treatment. Increased effort in the work on environmental pollutants and treatment facilities is therefore important.
In order for the NPRA to fulfil its obligations under the Water Regulations, White Paper no 14 2006–2007 and the sector responsibility, the ‘NORWAT’ agency programme will bring forth new knowledge and new methods that will allow the NPRA to plan, build and operate the road network without causing unacceptable harm to the aquatic environment. NORWAT will focus on what chemical and biological effects polluted runoff water has on the aquatic environment, and what measures are most appropriate to reduce the risk of environmental harm.