Warning issued after pesticides detected in Offaly drinking water

Farmers are being urged to act responsibly

Justin Kelly


Justin Kelly



Warning issued after pesticides detected in Offaly drinking water

Warning issued after pesticides detected in Offaly drinking water

Exceedances in pesticides have been detected in drinking water sources in Offaly, according to Irish Water.

As a result, Irish Water, working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group, are appealing to farmers and other users of pesticides to follow the guidelines when applying these substances to their lands.

The efforts to reduce the incidence of these detections are being coordinated by the NPDWAG. This group is chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

In Offaly the exceedances were noted in the Clara water supply in 2017. While Irish Water say there is no threat to public health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

One water supply in Offaly has seen the herbicide MCPA detected over the past year, albeit mostly at very low levels. MCPA is used mainly for eradicating rushes, a problem for many years on Irish farms and one that looks like continuing for many more years. It is also found in other weed killer formulations used by gardeners and growers, so its use is quite widespread.

Commenting ahead of the 2018 spraying season, Andrew Boylan, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist said: “Irish Water is continuing its extensive investment programme to improve water and wastewater services in Ireland."

"Providing safe, clean drinking water for all is our first priority. In Ireland, the majority of drinking water supplies come from surface water sources like water from rivers, lakes and streams. Such supplies are vulnerable to contamination from land and animal run-off."

Adding to this, Dr. Aidan Moody, Chair of NPDWAG commented: “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.”

Spring is a time of year for new growth and many people are getting back out into their fields and gardens to assess the effects of winter and prepare for the year ahead.

In many cases, they are finding that weeds of various kinds have taken over and action needs to be taken to leave space for the plants they want to grow. In the modern era, the use of pesticides has played a central role but the effects of this can be far reaching and more and more detections of pesticides in drinking water are being found across the country.

MCPA, which is commonly used to kill rushes on wet land, is the main offender, and careless storage, handling and improper application means it ends up in our drinking water leading to breaches of the drinking water regulations.

"A single drop of pesticide can breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres. This highlights the potential risk facing many of Ireland’s drinking water sources," Irish Water have said.

Drinking water monitoring results for Ireland show that a number of pesticides commonly used on grassland, such as MCPA, are being detected more frequently.

Irish Water working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group would like to remind farmers and professional users of pesticides of the need to follow best practice in the application of pesticides such as MCPA on land, particularly near lakes and rivers used as drinking water sources.

The basic steps in reducing pesticide risks are –

- Choose the right pesticide product
- Read and follow the product label
- Determine the right amount to purchase and use
- Don’t spray if rain or strong wind is forecast in the next 48 hours
- Make sure you are aware of the location of all nearby water courses
- Comply with any buffer zone specified on the product label to protect the aquatic environment. Mark out the specified buffer zone from the edge of the river or lake or other water course
- Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course
- Avoid spills, stay well back from open drains and rinse empty containers 3 times into the sprayer.
- Store and dispose of pesticides and their containers properly.

Information leaflets on pesticide use are also available to download from the Teagasc website.


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