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Pesticides detected in Newcastle West and Foynes-Shannon Estuary drinking water supplies in Co Limerick

Pesticides detected in Newcastle West and Foynes-Shannon Estuary drinking water supplies in Co Limerick.

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FOURTEEN exceedances for pesticides including MCPA, Mecoprop, and 2,4-D have been detected in the public drinking water supplies in Newcastle West and Foynes-Shannon Estuary during 2019 and 2020. These exceedances were detected as part of Irish Water’s public water supply monitoring program. 

Both water supplies abstract raw water from the River Deel, which is vulnerable to runoff from land. Users of any herbicide or pesticide products in the River Deel catchment are being asked to consider the water supplies’ vulnerability to pesticide contamination and the importance of this supply to the local homes and businesses in the community.

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The National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) is asking the farming community, greens keepers, groundskeepers, and domestic users, to consider in each case whether they need to use pesticides at all. Minimizing pesticide use not only helps to protect water quality but also has wider environmental benefits. For example, leaving areas unsprayed can help native flowering plant species to grow and support a range of insects, including bees and other vital pollinators.

 One-third of Ireland’s bee species are threatened with extinction, and by helping the bee population survive and thrive, we are also helping to protect our precious water sources. For more information on practical ways to help bees and other pollinators, check out the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan at www. pollinators.ie

Where pesticide use is considered necessary, the NPDWAG is working with the community to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking water sources and biodiversity are always followed.

 Farmers and other landholders dealing with the challenge of tackling rushes should note that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) has developed new guidance on the sustainable management of rushes. The new approach is based on containment or suppression and aims to minimize 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.

The NPDWAG is coordinating efforts to reduce the incidence and level of these detections. The DAFM chairs this group. All of the key stakeholders are represented in this group. They include other Government departments and agencies, local authorities, industry representative bodies, farming organizations, water sector organizations, and amenity sector organizations. 

Deirdre O’Loughlin, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist, said: “In Co Limerick, the exceedance of the drinking water regulations for MCPA, Triclopyr and 2,4-D were noted in both the Newcastle West and Foynes-Shannon Estuary public water supplies following routine sampling. 

While our consultation with the HSE has concluded that the levels are seen do not represent a threat to public health, it is, however, undesirable and therefore imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practices when using herbicides or pesticides and seek out alternatives.”

Adding to this, Dr. Aidan Moody, DAFM and Chair of NPDWAG, commented: “The continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, is needed to tackle this issue. Users of pesticides should always consider alternatives in the first instance, and if pesticides are essential, make sure that they are aware of the best practice measures that should be followed to protect water quality.”

Recent drinking water monitoring results for Ireland show that many active substances are contained in herbicide products used in agriculture, amenity, and gardens, such as 2,4-D, fluroxypyr, clopyralid, MCPA, mecoprop, and triclopyr, are being regularly detected.

If pesticides have to be used, the basic steps to reduce risks to drinking water sources and the aquatic environment are:

  • Choose the right pesticide product (note that products containing MCPA are NOT approved for use in weed-wipers.)
  • Read and follow the product label
  • Determine the right amount to purchase and use
  • Don’t use pesticides if rain is forecast in the next 48 hours
  • Make sure you are aware of the location of all nearby watercourses
  • 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 watercourse and drainage ditches
  • 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.
  • Never fill a sprayer directly from a watercourse or carry out mixing, loading, or other handling operations besides a watercourse.e

Further guidance:

A guide providing 10 easy steps towards responsible pesticide use in public and amenity and garden areas is available pcs.agriculture.gov.ie/media/pesticides/content/sud/ResponsiblePesticideUsePublicAmenityGardenAreas200217.pdf.


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