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Farmers deny they are to blame for pesticides in water supply


Anton McNulty

The discovery of the pesticide glyphosate in the public drinking water supply in Newport should not be blamed on local farmers, according to the IFA.
Irish Water confirmed last week that there was an exceedance of the drinking water regulations for glyphosate discovered in the Newport supply in May, but the levels do not represent a threat to public health.
There were three cases of exceedances in pesticides in the Newport supply in 2018 and following the latest exceedance, Irish Water called on farmers and users of pesticides to take care when using pesticides.
However, Burrishoole-based farmer Pat Chambers and Chairman of the Mayo IFA Sheep committee questioned how farmers could be to blame, saying that there was very little spraying in the area.
“Most farmers now have done courses on the use of pesticides and they are very wary of how much to use and how far to keep from drains and rivers,” he told The Mayo News.
“May was such a dry month that I find it hard to understand how the chemicals could have found their way into the water sources. There was not a lot of spraying done in May. I don’t think the problem came from farmers. Everyone blames farmers but I’m not sure how they can blame farmers for this,” he said.
Glyphosate is a broad spectrum herbicide used mainly for the control of annual broadleaf weeds and grasses and is found in a number of weed killer formulations used by gardeners and growers.
Recent drinking water monitoring results for Ireland show that a number of pesticides commonly used such as Bentazone, MCPP, MCPA, Clopyralid and Fluroxypyr, are being detected more frequently.
Irish Water said that exceedances in pesticides are on the increase across Mayo with four detections in the Louisburgh Water Supply, two in Kiltimagh and one in Westport in 2018. A single drop of pesticide can breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres.
Dr Pat O’Sullivan, Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist with Irish Water, said that while the HSE has advised that the levels discoverd do not represent a threat to public health, the levels were ‘undesirable and it is therefore imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands’.
Irish Water are working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) and they also called on farmers and professional users of pesticides to follow best practice in the application of pesticides on land, particularly near lakes and rivers used as drinking water sources.
“The continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, is needed to tackle this issue. Users of pesticides should make sure that they are aware of the best practice measures that should be followed to protect water quality,” said Dr Aidan Moody, Chair of NPDWAG.