Farmers and other users reminded to use best practice when spraying pesticides

Great care must always be taken to protect drinking water supplies wherever pesticide use is considered necessary, particularly if using products for grassland weed control containing substances such as MCPA, fluroxypyr and 2,4-D. These substances and others have been detected in drinking water supplies across Ireland. The detected levels sometimes exceed the legally permitted limit for pesticides in drinking water, which is set at an extremely low value (equivalent to one drop in an Olympic-sized swimming pool).

Irish Water, working in partnership with a range of organisations involved in the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group (NPDWAG) is providing advice and guidance to all users of pesticides including the farming community, greens keepers and grounds keepers and domestic users, to ensure that best practice measures to protect drinking waters 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 the PRCD Water Protection website page.

Catchment areas of particular concern

There are currently six priority catchment areas of particular concern where exceedances of pesticides are persistent. These are Longford Central (MCPA), Newcastlewest (MCPA), Belturbet (MCPA), Cavan RWSS (MCPA), Clonroche (Bentazone), and Newport (Glyphosate/MCPA).  All of these areas are being prioritised for action by members of the NPDWAG.

There is a separate watch list, currently comprising over 20 supplies, which is also a focus for targeted actions, since the pattern of detections in these areas indicates a risk of persistent pesticide exceedances. 

Efforts to reduce the incidence of detections are being coordinated by the NPDWAG which is chaired by the DAFM. All of the key stakeholders are represented in this group and include other Government departments and agencies; local authorities; industry representative bodies; farming organisations; water sector organisations; and amenity sector organisations. 

Andrew Boylan, Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist

Commenting, Andrew Boylan, Irish Water’s Regional Drinking Water Compliance Specialist said “At a time of significant challenges for farmers and other essential workers managing land we are asking everyone to continue to be mindful to protect the water bodies.

“While MCPA accounted for the majority (63 per cent) of pesticide exceedances detected nationally in public water supplies during 2019, Irish Water routinely tests for a wide range of pesticides and is closely monitoring the situation for pesticides other than MCPA. Irish Water is continuing its extensive investment programme to safeguard the water supply for homes, farms and businesses in Ireland. 

“Providing safe, clean drinking water for all is our first priority. In Ireland, the majority (82 per cent) of drinking water supplies come from surface water sources such as rivers, lakes and streams. Such supplies are vulnerable to contamination from land and animal run-off. Irish Water asks users of pesticide products to consider the vulnerability of the drinking water supply to pesticide contamination and the importance of this supply to the local community.”

Dr Aidan Moody, Chair of the NPDWAG

Dr Aidan Moody, Chair of the NPDWAG commented “A lot of good work has been done and progress has been made. The continued engagement of all stakeholders, working in partnership, is needed to make further progress. Users of pesticides should always consider in the first instance if there are alternative non-chemical weed/pest control methods that would be feasible. If pesticides have to be applied users must make sure that they are aware of and follow best practice measures to protect water quality.”

County specific pesticide information

Carlow

A file was opened in 2019 for Metaldhyde on Carlow town, which receives its water from the Burrin River & Oak Park borehole.The pesticide levels detected in the water supply does not pose any immediate risk to health, but it is imperative that users of pesticides in these areas are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Kilkenny

There is no open file for Kilkenny at present, however, the Troyswood file has only recently been closed and it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Wexford

There are two supplies in Wexford that are on the action/watch list. They are the South Regional supply which is on the watch list (MCPA and Fluroxypr) and Clonroche which is on the EPA’s priority action list (Bentazone recent exceedance in March 2020). While the pesticide levels detected in the Clonroche and South Regional water supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Galway

Both the Ballinasloe and Tully Tullycross Public Water Supplies in Co Galway are on the EPA’s watch list and while the pesticide levels detected in the supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands. The Ballinasloe supply recorded three exceedances for MCPA in 2019, while the Tully Tullycross supply recorded one for the same pesticide.

Leitrim

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Leitrim in 2019

Roscommon

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Roscommon in 2019.

Donegal

Fanad East (Shannagh) in County Donegal is on the watch list having had exceedances in MCPA throughout 2019.  In total 13 supplies in Donegal have had pesticide detections including Ballymagroarty, Bundoran Urban, Carrigart-Downings, Creeslough, Donegal(River Eske), Fanad East (Shannagh), Inishowen East, Killybegs, Letterkenny, Lough Mourne, Pollan Dam Pub, Rathmullen Pub and Rosses Regional Pub. While the pesticide levels exceeded and detected in the water supply do not pose any immediate risk to health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Sligo

Both Foxes Den Public Water Supply and Kilsellagh Public Water Supply in County Sligo have had detections of pesticides in their water supply. While the pesticide levels detected in the water supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Cavan

Cavan Regional Water Supply, which comes from Lough Acanon, is currently on the action list having had had exceedances for MCPA in October and November 2019.

In total three Cavan water supplies had multiple pesticide detections in 2019.  Belturbet water supply which comes from the river Erne had exceedances for MCPA from May to September 2019 and is also on the EPA action list. Ballyjamesduff  also had exceedances for July, October and November 2019.

On a more positive note, three water supply schemes in Cavan which had MCPA exceedances were closed out in 2019.  There were Killeshandra, Gowna and Arvagh.

Mayo

Newport Public Water Supply which sources its water from the Newport River, is currently on the EPA’s RAL and Direction list, this is due to persistent exceedances for MCPA  and Glyphosate over a four month period (May, June, July and August) in 2019.

This public water supply scheme also had pesticide detections prior to 2019.  

On a more positive note, three public water supply schemes in Mayo which had previous pesticide exceedances were closed out in 2019.  These were Westport, Louisburgh and Kiltimagh Public Water Supplies which all had previous exceedances for the pesticide MCPA.

Monaghan

Emyvale and Glaslough water supplies which both come from the Emy River had exceedances for MCPA in August and September 2019. The EPA continue to monitor these water supplies. 

Other water supply schemes in County Monaghan, had pesticide detections but not exceedances during 2019.  These included: Hollywood Scotstown /Bellanode Public Water Supply, Inniskeen Public Water Supply and Lough Egish Regional Water Supply Scheme. 

Limerick

Newcastle West supply in Co Limerick is on the action list for exceedances of the pesticide MCPA and while the pesticide levels detected in the (water supply) do not pose any immediate risk to health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

The Foynes/Shannon Estuary supply is on this watch list for exceedances of MCPA.

Tipperary

The Dundrum Regional Water Supply in Tipperary is on this watch list for having exceedances for the pesticides MCPA and 2,4-D in 2018 and 2019.

Cork

The Glashaboy and Glanmire water supplies in Cork are both on the watch list for MCPA, with Glashaboy also on the list for Mecoprop and Triclopyr and Glanmire for 2 4, D and Fluroxypyr. The Macroom water supply is on the watch list for Glyphosate. The pesticide levels detected in these water supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, but it is imperative that users of pesticides in these areas are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Kerry

The Listowel Regional and Lyreacrompane water supplies in Kerry are on the watch list for Glyphosate and MCPA respectively. The pesticide levels detected in these water supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, but it is imperative that users of pesticides in these areas are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Waterford

The Kill/Ballylaneen water supply in Waterford is on the watch list for both Fluroxypyr and MCPA respectively. The pesticide levels detected in these water supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, but it is imperative that users of pesticides in these areas are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

Clare

The Ennis public water supply is on this watch list for having an exceedance for MCPA in 2019.

Dublin

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Dublin in 2019.

Kildare

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Kildare in 2019.

Laois

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Laois in 2019.

Louth

Cavanhill and Ardee in county Louth are both on the watch list and while the pesticide levels detected in the Cavanhill and Ardee supplies do not pose any immediate risk to health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands.

An exceedance for the pesticide MCPA has been detected in the South Louth/East Meath public water supply. The supply sources water from the River Boyne catchment area of Co. Meath and Co. Louth. This latest exceedance in Louth is the fifth exceedance in the last twelve months.

Meath

An exceedance for the pesticide MCPAhas been detected in the Navan/Mid Meath public water supply. The supply sources water from the River Boyne catchment area of Co. Meath. While there is no threat to public health, it is imperative that users of pesticides are mindful of best practice when spraying their lands. This is the second pesticide exceedance in the Navan/Mid Meath public supply in the last twelve months.

Westmeath

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Westmeath in 2019.

Wicklow

Farmers and other users of pesticides are reminded to continue to use best practice when spraying – no exceedances for pesticides detected in Wicklow in 2019.

Improper application means any pesticides can end up in drinking water

MCPA, which is commonly used to kill rushes on wet land, is the main offender, however, other pesticides such as 2,4-D, fluroxypyr and MCPP (also known as mecoprop) are being detected more frequently than in previous years. Careless storage, handling or improper application of any pesticide product can easily result in traces ending up in drinking water, leading to breaches of the drinking water regulations. Users of pesticides are asked to carefully consider how these products may access water courses via rainwater drains, drainage channels or other means before application.

Regulations for pesticides are very stringent

The regulations are so stringent that a single drop of pesticide is enough to breach the drinking water limit in a small stream for up to 30 kilometres. This clearly highlights the level of care needed to protect drinking water sources.

Irish Water working in partnership with the National Pesticides and Drinking Water Action Group would like to remind farmers and professional users of pesticides of the need to follow best practice in the application of pesticides, particularly near lakes and rivers used as drinking water sources.

Basic steps to reduce risks

If pesticides have to be used, the basic steps in reducing risks 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 spray 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
  • Never fill a sprayer directly from a water course or carry out mixing, loading or other handling operations beside a water course
  • 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.

Information leaflets on pesticide use are also available to download from the Teagasc website.

Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow

Back to the top