Silvermines area deemed 'safe for farming' after investigation into lead poisoning
Ongoing monitoring of lead levels in soil, water supplies, animal tissue and farm produce in the Silvermines area of North Tipperary has been recommended by an inter-agency group following an investigation into animal deaths on farms in the area.
Seven state and semi-state bodies were requested by the Department of Agriculture to appoint experts to carry out the investigation after two dairy cows died from lead poisoning on a farm near Silvermines in early 2017 and bulk tank milk supplies from the herd was found to contain lead above the maximum safety level.
Restrictions were temporarily placed on milk supplies from the herd. Slightly elevated lead levels were also found in supplies from two other farms in the immediate area.
The Silvermines area has a natural geological occurrence of lead that has been released in to the environment over time both by natural processes and a long history of mining spanning over a thousand years.
Although the last mine closed in 1993, years of mining activity left a legacy of open-pits, mine shafts, large waste dumps, tailings and derelict structures, much of which has now been remediated.
In 1999, following a lead poisoning incident in cattle in the Silvermines area, an Inter-Agency Group (IAG) was established composed of different public agencies, to examine the risk to public health, animal health and the environment.
In early 2017, two dairy cows died from lead poisoning on a farm in the Silvermines area of County Tipperary. Bulk tank milk from this herd was found to contain lead above the maximum level (ML) permitted in milk (0.02 mg/kg) resulting in a restriction on milk supply to safeguard the food-chain.
Two further dairy herds in the Silvermines area with lead levels in milk above the ML were also identified and restricted at that time.