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Thursday, 28th May 2020

Pesticide detected in South Louth/East Meath public water supply

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A tractor spraying in a rushy field. Photo: Irish Water.

No threat to public health says Irish Water, farmers reminded to use best practice when spraying

Irish Water has detected an exceedance for the pesticide MCPA in the South Louth/East Meath public water supply. They have said that there is no threat to public health but have reminded farmers  to use best practice when spraying. This latest exceedance in Louth is the fifth exceedance in the last twelve months.

Irish Water working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) is appealing to farmers and other users of pesticides to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking water quality are always followed.

They are providing advice and guidance to all users of pesticides including the farming community, greens keepers and grounds keepers and domestic users, to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking waters are always followed.

Farmers and other landholders dealing with the challenge of tackling rushes should note that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has developed new guidance on the sustainable management of rushes. The new approach is based on the concepts of containment or suppression, and aims to minimise the use of pesticides. More information on this can be obtained from your local farm advisor or on www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/sud/waterprotection

Andrew Boylan, a drinking water compliance specialist said: “At a time of significant challenges for farmers and other essential workers managing land we are asking everyone to continue to be mindful to protect the water bodies.

“Irish Water is continuing its extensive investment programme to improve water and wastewater services in Ireland. Providing safe, clean drinking water for all is our first priority. In Ireland, the majority (82 per cent) of drinking water supplies come from surface water sources (water from rivers, lakes and streams). Such supplies are vulnerable to contamination from land and animal run-off.”

Dr Aidan Moody, Chair of the NPDWAG commented: “Users of pesticides should always consider in the first instance if there are alternative non-chemical weed/pest control methods that would be feasible. If pesticides have to be applied users must make sure that they are aware of and follow best practice measures to protect water quality.”

MCPA, which is commonly used to kill rushes on wet land, is the main offender, however, other pesticides such as 2,4-D, fluroxypyr and MCPP (also known as mecoprop) are being detected more frequently than in previous years. Careless storage, handling or improper application of any pesticide product can easily result in traces ending up in drinking water, leading to breaches of the drinking water regulations.

The regulations are so stringent that a single drop of pesticide is enough to breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres. This clearly highlights the level of care needed to protect drinking water sources.

If pesticides have to be used, the basic steps in reducing risks are –

  • Choose the right pesticide product (Note that products containing MCPA are NOT approved for use in weed-wipers.)
  • Read and follow the product label
  • Determine the right amount to purchase and use
  • Don’t spray if rain or strong wind is forecast in the next 48 hours
  • Make sure you are aware of the location of all nearby water courses
  • Comply with any buffer zone specified on the product label to protect the aquatic environment. Mark out the specified buffer zone from the edge of the river or lake or other water course
  • Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course
  • Avoid spills, stay well back from open drains and rinse empty containers 3 times into the sprayer.
  • Store and dispose of pesticides and their containers properly.

 A recently produced video on the correct use of MCPA can be viewed on Irish Water’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/xQqtZ7jifUs

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