Irish Water warning: We have to tackle pesticides

Dónal Nolan

Listowel's public water supply is the subject of an urgent appeal by Irish Water (IW) this week over the continued presence of pesticides in the River Feale as the agency confirmed more detections in 2018.

The warning comes just two weeks after  One detection involved a failure at an unnamed Listowel National School four times in excess of the EU guide limit.

Irish Water is now urgently calling on farmers to take great care when spraying. 

Anglers long campaigning for answers on the contamination of the Feale by the pesticide have welcomed the IW appeal.

The FOI request that brought the most recent failures to light was carried out by Brosna/Mountcollins PRO Brendan Danaher, who said: "I welcome Irish Water's appeal this week as it acknowledges there is a problem in the first place when it comes to repeated failures for pesticide on the River Feale and, secondly, that it sets out a course of action. But a lot more work is required to address this problem fully and ensure the Feale and all other precious water courses are free of pesticide contamination," Mr Danaher said.

Irish Water emphasised that the pesticide breaches do not represent a threat to public health, being as they are at trace level. But they say it is 'imperative' that pesticide users take the utmost care in handling and using MCPA.

Irish Water said it detected 'exceedances' for the pesticide MCPA in the Listowel public water supply again in 2018. However, the agency said that there were no exceedances recorded in 2018 in the Brosna/Knocknagoshel and Lyreacrompane public water supplies - where previous failures were recorded.

"While there is no threat to public health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands," Irish Water stated.

It said it is now working in partnership with the National Pesticide and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) to appeal to farmers and other users of pesticides 'to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking water quality are always followed.'

MCPA is widely used to control rushes on marshy land in farms and forestry. The latest Irish Water warning on the substance comes as the spraying season now gets underway. 

"Efforts to reduce the incidence of detections are being coordinated by the NPDWAG which is chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. All of the key stakeholders are represented in this group and include other Government departments and agencies; local authorities; industry representative bodies; farming organisations; water sector organisations; and amenity sector organisations." 

Irish Water's Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist Deirdre O'Loughlin said: "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."  

Chair of the NPDWAG commented Dr Aidan Moody: "Users of pesticides should make sure that they are aware of the best practice measures that should be followed to protect water quality."  

Irish Water say a single drop of MCPA is enough to breach drinking water limits as the regulations are so stringent. They urge farmers to read the product carefully before use; to use the right amount; to spray only in dry periods and to comply with all buffer zones, among many other  recommendations.