Spray for killing rushes at centre of investigation involving drinking water for nearly 1m people

Photo: Roger Jones
Photo: Roger Jones
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The EPA has said there are widespread failures to meet standards that regulate the levels of pesticides in drinking water.

In its Drinking Water Report for 2016, the EPA says that at the end of 2016, 63 supplies serving over 900,000 people had open investigations due to failures to meet the pesticide standard.

The term ‘Pesticides’ includes a wide range of products, but in Ireland, the EPA says it is herbicides that pose the greatest threat to drinking water

The most commonly found pesticide is MCPA, which is used for rush control in grassland. MCPA is usually detected in the months of May/June/July and in September/October. This is because MCPA is applied to grassland in these months for ragwort, rush and thistle control.

Pesticide products should not be present in drinking water and the Drinking Water Regulations set specific standards.

The standards are set considerably below levels which would give rise to potential effects on human health.

Improved monitoring of public water supplies for pesticides has taken place in recent years, and in 2016, Irish Water began a programme of monitoring all public supplies for 21 pesticides most likely to be found in Irish waters.

In its report the EPA said an issue of widespread and, in a small number of supplies, persistent failures to meet the standard has emerged.

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The EPA said Irish Water is currently adopting different approaches to deal with the issue of pesticides in drinking water in different parts of the country depending on local circumstances.

However, it said in some areas progress has not been adequate and the EPA has identified 16 supplies with pesticide exceedances for which Irish Water has not taken or identified adequate measures to return them to compliance.

The EPA has identified the need for a National Pesticides Strategy and Irish Water has stated that a Strategy will be published in Q3 2017.

The EPA said there is still a major deficit in the engagement with stakeholders in some areas and in the information being provided to the EPA.

It says a consistent national approach must be adopted to ensure that pesticides are prevented from entering our drinking water supplies.

The EPA has recommended Irish Water needs to produce a strategy to address the issue of pesticides in drinking water on a national and local level.

The resources available from the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group should be utilised as much as possible in developing activities in catchments.

Treatment options for pesticides should be considered where catchment-based activities prove unsuccessful in reducing pesticide exceedances in drinking water.

The monitoring programme for the 21 most commonly used pesticides needs to be carried out on all public water supplies.

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