28 April 2022
By Bryan Smyth
Two pesticide exceedances in County Cork drinking water supplies in 2021 – Public urged to continue to consider the environment and alternatives to pesticides when gardening, farming and maintaining sports grounds
Exceedances for the pesticides MCPA and Triclopyr were detected in the public drinking water supplies in Glanmire and Youghal in 2021. These exceedances were detected as part of Irish Water’s public water supply monitoring programme. MCPA is still the most commonly detected pesticide in drinking water sources and is present in many commonly used herbicide products used to control thistles, docks and rushes.
There was a significant reduction in the number of exceedances for pesticides in public drinking water supplies in Cork last year, according to Irish Water. In 2020 the utility detected 6 exceedances in samples taken on 4 supplies (Bantry/Cahernacrin (MCPA exceedance), Glanmire (MCPA, 2,4-D, Fluroxypyr and Mecoprop exceedances), Glashaboy (MCPA exceedance), Glengarriff (Triclopyr exceedance) as part of its ongoing monitoring, however, this had reduced to two (Glanmire – Triclopyr & Youghal – MCPA) in 2021.
The Glanmire water supply abstracts raw water from Coolquesk Bridge, Kilquana Bridge, Butlerstown and the Butlerstown river tributary, part of the Butlerstown River catchment; The Youghal water supply abstracts raw water from the Glendine river. Irish Water is asking users of any herbicide or pesticide products to continue to consider the vulnerability of their local drinking water supplies to pesticide contamination and the importance of these supplies to local homes and businesses in the community.
Irish Water, working in partnership with a range of organisations involved in the NPDWAG, is asking the farming community, greens keepers, grounds keepers, and also domestic users of pesticides, to consider in each case whether they need to use pesticides at all. Minimising 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. Farmers should also bear in mind that application of herbicides reduces sward species diversity and could negatively impact on payments in future agri-environmental schemes.
Where pesticide use is considered necessary, the NPDWAG is working with local communities 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 rushes should note Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) guidance on the sustainable management of rushes. This 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/
The NPDWAG is chaired by the DAFM and involves key stakeholders from a range of Government departments and agencies, local authorities, industry representative bodies, farming organisation, water sector organisations and amenity sector organisations.
Deirdre O’ Loughlin, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist said:
“In Co Cork, the exceedances of the drinking water regulations for MCPA and Triclopyr were noted in the Glanmire and Youghal public water supplies following routine sampling. While our consultation with the HSE has concluded that the levels we are detecting do not represent a threat to public health, they are still however undesirable in drinking water and it is therefore imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when using herbicides or pesticides and seek out alternatives.”
Adding to this, Dr Aidan Moody, DAFM and Chair of NPDWAG commented:
“We need the continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, make further progress. Users of pesticides must always consider alternatives in the first instance and if the application of pesticides is considered essential make sure that they follow best practice measures to protect water quality.”
Above: A video on the best practice use and application of products containing MCPA via Irish Water’s YouTube channel
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, and are not permitted to be used from the end of September until the beginning of March)
- 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 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 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 water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course