Increase in the number of pesticides present in public water supplies

The number of public water supplies affected by pesticides that was noted in 2014 continued to increase last year, according to the 2015 Drinking Water Report.

The report, published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), showed that pesticide levels above the limit were detected in 61 schemes last year compared to 28 in 2014.

The herbicide MCPA was the most common offender on the list of notifications received by the EPA, as was the case during 2012 and 2013, according to the report.

Aoife Loughnane of the EPA has said that farmers need to take care when using chemical products on their land because of the effect they can have on water quality.

Speaking to Northern Sound Radio she said that where pesticides get into a stream or a river that is used as a drinking water source it’s very difficult to remove them because conventional water treatment plants just can’t take out the pesticides.”

A single drop of herbicide, such as MCPA, can breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for 30km.

The Pesticides Working Group, which is facilitated by the EPA, has continued with an awareness-raising campaign which was launched in the summer of 2014.

In 2015 the Working Group published and distributed a number of pesticide information leaflets, including advice for farmers and other professional users on herbicide use in grassland with a focus on MCPA and rush control.

The EPA, along with other stakeholders, also collaborated in a joint initiative with farmers to facilitate the removal of farm hazardous waste including pesticides.

Over a three year period approximately 46,411kg of pesticides were removed for disposal, the report shows.

Meanwhile, the Drinking Water Report indicated that the majority of the 962 drinking water supplies in Ireland are safe and comply with microbiological and chemical standards.

However, the EPA Remedial Action List also outlined that there are over 100 drinking water supplies in need of improvement works to avoid threat of water restrictions.

Monitoring of Ireland’s public drinking water in 2015 found that:
  • 99.9% of samples comply with the microbiological standards.
  • 99.4% of samples comply with the chemical standards.
  • 35 Boil Water Notices were in place during 2015 for part or all of the year, affecting nearly 40,000 people.
  • 115 ‘at risk’ drinking public water supplies were on the EPA Remedial Action List at the end of 2015.
  • Today there are 108 ‘at risk’ supplies on this list.
  • 37 of these supplies lack adequate treatment to prevent Cryptosporidium entering drinking water.

The 108 drinking water supplies deemed ‘at risk’ where improvement works are necessary to ensure they are safe and secure serve a total of 830,000 consumers.

At the moment there are 17 public water supplies under a boiled water notice across the country, affecting 6,769 people, according to the EPA.

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