At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, water is used in production primarily for cooling, as process water, or for exhaust air purification. After being utilized, the water may contain eutrophicating substances, heavy metals, or active pharmaceutical ingredients. The treatment of this wastewater, and thus the prevention of environmental pollution, is a fundamental part of our corporate environmental protection activities worldwide.

EQ, the Group function in charge of environmental protection, bears overall responsibility for water protection (see Environmental management). At sites outside of Germany, local EHS managers are tasked with implementing measures and receive regular training from EQ.

Our Group standard "Water Protection" defines the processes and responsibilities required for clean wastewater in the company and also covers the hiring of third parties to handle it. This standard is derived from our obligations under the Responsible Care®  initiative. It requires all sites to estimate and assess the specific risks and effects of wastewater using tools such as ecotoxicological data. The standard also requires risk assessments to take a site's wastewater treatment plants into account. Furthermore, each individual site must develop and implement a water pollution response plan that features measures to prevent wastewater or reduce its volume. The plan must also define the documentation process for wastewater volume, points of origin, and local limits. The standard provides strict guidelines for wastewater treatment via external service providers. For instance, the service provider agreement must stipulate the wastewater quality to be attained - if not already specified by law - as well as the responsibilities involved.

Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) audits are conducted to verify whether our "Water Protection" standard is being properly implemented. In the 2013-2014 period, 57 internal audits were conducted by the Environment, Health and Safety (EQ-E) unit, and 18 audits were performed by external ISO 14001 certifiers. These audits examine water-related aspects in proportion to how relevant they are to the individual site - for instance, water is a bigger issue at production sites than at administrative locations.

In 2014, the company produced 10.1 million cubic meters of wastewater. At our Darmstadt site in Germany, the discharge of purified wastewater into the Darmbach (a stream in the Darmstadt area) accounted for over 5% of the average annual volume of this body of water, which is permissible by law. The discharge did not have any significant impact on the Darmbach, or the associated habitats. In the 2013-2014 period, we did not discharge significant amounts of purified wastewater into other bodies of water either.

Active pharmaceutical ingredients in the environment

Our standard "Water Protection" stipulates that the amount of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in our wastewater should be kept to a minimum. Appropriate measures are defined and implemented on a site-by-site basis. For instance, production and purification processes are being optimized at our sites in order to maximally reduce API concentrations in the wastewater.

All our pharmaceutical production sites have wastewater treatment plants. At these sites, we regularly take readings to assess the amount of APIs being discharged. For these assessments, we apply the predicted no effect concentration (PNEC) values. If the concentrations are below the PNEC, then the substance is not expected to adversely impact the environment. In the 2013-2014 period, we did not exceed these limits.

Goals: Water














Status in 2013 and 2014


Reduce the life science business' water use by 10% relative to the 2006 baseline

Implement water reuse and reduction initiatives

End of 2015

Despite significant increases in production volumes, between 2006 and 2014, the life science business reduced water consumption by 2%.

In 2014, we performed five water audits at the life science business facilities. Our Molsheim, France facility identified viable projects that will be investigated further in 2015.

Legend: Achieved In progress Not achieved New goal


Publication of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

In the United States and Canada the subsidiaries of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany operate under the umbrella brand EMD.

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