Irish Water has detected an exceedance for the pesticide MCPA in the Newport public water supply which sources its water from the Newport River. While there is no threat to public health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands. This comes following compliant water samples in the month of April and is disappointing news for people on this water supply.
The Newport Catchment Focus Group, which comprises representatives from Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM ), Animal and Plant Health Association (APHA ), Mayo County Council, Local Authority Water Programme, Irish Water, and the National Federation of Group Water Schemes is disappointed at this latest exceedance despite a lot of good work in the area by the agencies involved in the group and local groups. The group was formed to engage in an education and awareness campaign in the Newport area in an effort to encourage users of pesticides to ensure they follow best practice.
Mary Roache, Teagasc, a member of the group has this important advice for users of pesticides: “Due to the good spell of weather recently land is dry and no immediate rain is forecast. Many farmers may see this as a chance to get out with sprays, especially on land which is prone to growing rushes. However, we must realise that as we enter drought conditions the plant stops growing, you should not apply sprays to a plant unless it is actively growing so that it can take up the product and move it around its system to achieve control. Otherwise, all you achieve is a superficial burn of the plant (especially if using a salt based product ) a waste of product and a waste of money.
“Also while the weather may be fine there are often breezy conditions which are not appropriate to the use of a boom sprayer. Remember, MCPA based products must be kept five metres back from all drains, wet or dry, on farms and this cannot be controlled in windy conditions.
“Non-chemical methods of control should always be looked at first on all farms. In the current conditions it is an excellent chance to get in and top rushes, apply lime and graze fields that might otherwise prove difficult. It is not sustainable to rely solely on the use of sprays which can have a detrimental effect on water quality if not used appropriately. Good water quality is in everyone’s interest.”
Farmers and other landholders dealing with the challenge of tackling rushes should note that the DAFM has developed new guidance on the sustainable management of rushes. The new approach is based on the concepts of containment or suppression, and aims to minimise the use of pesticides. More information on this can be obtained from your local farm advisor or on www.pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/sud/waterprotection Commenting following this latest exceedance Pat O’Sullivan, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist said: “At a time of significant challenges for farmers and other essential workers managing land we are asking everyone to continue to be mindful to protect the water bodies.
“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 (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.
“A lot of good work has been done and progress has been made. The continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, is needed to make further progress. Users of pesticides should always consider in the first instance if there are alternative non-chemical weed/pest control methods that would be feasible. If pesticides have to be applied users must make sure that they are aware of and follow best practice measures to protect water quality.”
The regulations are so stringent that a single drop of pesticide is enough to breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres. This clearly highlights the level of care needed to protect drinking water sources.