The number of public water supplies where pesticides breaches were detected fell last year, according to the latest figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In 2019, 27 supplies reported a pesticide failure – down from 34 the year before.
In almost two-thirds of all breaches MCPA, the herbicide used for rush control in grassland, was at fault. The EPA monitors for 21 pesticides that are most likely to be found in Irish waters, with the standards for breaches set considerably below levels that would impact public health.
However, in its annual report on drinking water quality, the environmental watchdog stated its monitoring programme “highlighted an issue of widespread and, in a small number of supplies, persistent failures to meet the pesticide standards”.
The EPA investigated some 31 supplies last year from which the 27 breaches were detected. These 27 supplies provide water to just around 295,000 people.
Eight supplies were under investigation for persistent pesticide failures last year. Persistent failures were identified in the Newport, Co Mayo, supply during 2019 and the remaining seven supplies had been under investigation from 2017 and 2018.
The other seven supplies were Belturbet and Cavan rural water supply in Cavan, Abbeyfeale and Newcastle West in Limerick, Longford Central, Kilkenny City (Troyswood) and Clonroache, Co Wexford.
Where breaches are detected, the EPA requires Irish Water to take action to stop them. As drinking water plants are not equipped with the technology to remove pesticides, the current approach is to engage with farmers and other pesticide users to prevent them entering the water in the first place.
As a result, Kilkenny City (Troyswood) and Abbeyfeale reported no pesticide failures last year.
Eamon Gallen, general manager of Irish Water, said: “As the EPA’s report highlights, pesticide concentrations are a concern in an increasing number of supplies and Irish Water is in full agreement that this is best addressed through catchment management.
“We are working closely with our partners in the National Pesticide and Drinking Water Action Group to create awareness of the importance of responsible pesticide use.”
Gallen praised the work of the group saying there were over 70 pesticide files open when the group was formed in 2016 but it was expected the revised number to be confirmed shortly as being 29.