Irish Water: 'River Feale supply not a health risk'

Dónal Nolan

Irish Water insists that the 'persistent' presence of trace-level pesticides in the River Feale water supplies of Abbeyfeale and Listowel in 2017 do not constitute a health risk to the public.

The agency was responding to fears raised by Feale anglers in last week's The Kerryman over the pesticide problem on the EU-protected fishery after it was revealed in June of 2018 that Abbeyfeale and Listowel accounted for half of those water supplies in the State to ‘persistently’ fail for pesticides in 2017 – as set out in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Drinking Water Report for Public Supplies 2017.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed in June of last year that half of the Irish drinking-water supplies where persistent pesticide failures were identified in 2017 were on the Feale - Listowel and Abbeyfeale - in the Drinking Water Report for Public Supplies 2017.

The report clearly sets out as a priority for drinking-water supplies that: 'Pesticides should not be present in drinking-water sources.' 

The EPA issued a direction on the Listowel Regional plant at Scartlea outside the town on May 15 of 2017. It found the Listowel plant was compliant by the end of '17. The Abbeyfeale plant was the subject of a persistent pesticide failure direction on November 14. 

It has until December of this year to achieve compliance, as set out in the EPA's 'remedial action list' for the third quarter of 2018. The pesticide pollution is largely due to the increasing use of a herbicide called MCPA, widely used to kill rushes on forestry and farms.

Now, Mountcollins/Brosna anglers are demanding answers on the current situation amid what PRO Brendan Danaher said is a struggle to get any update on the pesticide traces in the precious river. 

In a response to anglers concerns, Irish Water has stated there is no health risk: "The pesticide levels in the Kerry/Limerick water supply are not a health risk.  "The levels fall within the guideline values and health-based values recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

"When there are higher pesticide levels in drinking water, there may have been careless or excessive use of pesticides in the catchment area of the water supply source." Irish Water said it has generally agreed an 'action plan' with the EPA to help prevent pesticides ending up in 'your drinking water'.

"To make sure that drinking water sources are protected from pesticides, the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group is taking action, which includes informing local stakeholders on the correct and safe use of pesticides.

"The National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group is led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and includes representatives from: EPA; HSE; Teagasc; Coillte; local city and county councils; Irish Water; the farming community; and pesticide manufacturers and suppliers," Irish Water stated.