Silvermines inter-agency group holds first meeting

The Inter-Agency Group formed in the wake of the Silvermines cattle poisoning case held its first meeting on Wednesday last, May 10.

The meeting convened in Limerick to consider active management measures to mitigate risks associated with lead in the Silvermines area of Co. Tipperary.

The group is chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Other agencies in attendance were the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI); the Health Services Executive (HSE); Irish Water; Teagasc; and Tipperary County Council.

The group discussed previous work undertaken within the Silivermines area, in the context of findings from an ongoing investigation into the recent incident of lead toxicity in cattle, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said.

It agreed terms of reference, and all the agencies involved undertook to follow up on specific actions before the next meeting in four weeks, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of North Tipperary IFA Tim Cullinan has called for urgent attention on the river that is believed to be at the centre of the incident.

The EPA and Tipperary County Council, which have responsibility for protection of watercourses, have participated from the early stages in the farm investigation and have been kept fully briefed, the department said in an earlier statement.

The FSAI has also been kept fully appraised, according to the department, which has also sought advice on specific aspects of the investigation from the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment, and Teagasc.

Two cows died of lead toxicity in February and a further yearling animal was confirmed dead in March due to the same cause.

The tests on these cattle confirmed elevated lead concentrations in the kidneys and other changes that are characteristic of lead toxicity, the department said in its earlier statement.

An animal had already died on-farm in January prior to the commencement of the investigation but it was not sampled by the department, which has not issued instructions on the housing of animals.

It has, however, shared all relevant laboratory test results with the index farm owner to inform decision-making on husbandry, grazing and forage.

There is no compensation scheme in place where restrictions and other food chain protection measures are required, the department said.

The department has undertaken extensive testing of clinical samples from farm animals including milk, blood, and tissue of bulk tank milk and animal feed.

Tipperary County Council, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, and the EPA, have collected and tested samples of water, soil and sediments.

The North Tipperary IFA chairman said his understanding is that all milk suppliers are back supplying.

Cullinan said the cause of the incident appeared to be a river coming down from the village of the Silvermines that flooded in early 2015.

We are calling on the local authority, or whoever is responsible, for immediate action.

“This river needs immediate action and ongoing maintenance,” Cullinan said.