Pesticides detected in Limerick drinking water supplies

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Filling glass of tap water

There were 14 pesticide exceedances in Limerick during 2019 and 2020

EXCESS levels of pesticides including MCPA, Mecoprop and 2,4-D were detected in the public drinking water supplies in Newcastle West and Foynes-Shannon Estuary on fourteen occasions during 2019 and 2020, it has been revealed.

Irish Water says the exceedances were detected as part of its public water supply monitoring programme. 

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

The National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) is asking the farming community, greens keepers, grounds keepers, and domestic users, 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 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 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 here.

Commenting on the latest figures, Deirdre O’Loughlin, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist said: "In County 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 seen do not represent a threat to public health, it is however undesirable and 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, 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 a number of active substances 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.