MCPA could be banned if farmers don't improve control measures

File photo
File photo

Martin Ryan

One of the most commonly used farming herbicides could be banned if excessive residues of the chemical continue to be found in public water supplies.

MCPA, which is used to control rushes, could be removed from the market, Cliona Ní Eidhin of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned.

She said MCPA residue levels exceeding the drinking water standard has been found in public water supplies in 15 areas of the country in 2019.

MCPA residues are also likely to be present in private wells, but "they are not being tested, and we don't know what impact it is having, unless it is monitored," Ms Ní Eidhin told a pesticides seminar in Pallaskenry Agricultural College. "It may be used to a small extent in non-farming areas (golf courses), but it is mainly farmers who are using it.

"What we are asking users to do is adopt better management with the herbicide, and if we all do our part, there is a better chance that we will be able to keep the product."


She added that there have been two cases of glyphosate (Roundup) in public water supplies but it is not considered a significant problem - "and we want to keep it that way".

John Keogh, chief executive of the Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA), said pesticide contamination of drinking water has become a significant focus of environmental concerns. "While the overall quality of drinking water in Ireland is very high, testing has revealed a number of drinking water supplies where pesticide contamination has been detected, in particular, MCPA," he said.

The EU has launched the TOPPS programme to train operators on how to reduce the loss of plant protection products to the water supply.

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TOPPS programme leader Manfred Roettele said: "The biggest challenge is to change behaviours and the improvement of spray equipment and infrastructure, and how the users handle the product.

"I cannot judge the farmyard and how many farmers are prepared to take precautionary measures to reduce spills, because most of the filling is done on the farmyard - these are all things that can make a difference and we need to create awareness of the measures you can take to reduce the risk.

"We have to create awareness in the minds of the people that we have to protect water as an obligation.


"That is the most important factor, and also you want to present possibilities in the technical side and the infrastructure side to reduce the risk because technology and infrastructure is not sufficient as it also needs the operator willing to consider their obligations," he added.

"Water protection starts in the minds of the people.

"You don't need very sophisticated technology to clean a sprayer but you need to be willing to take the time to do this."

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