14 Aug 2022

Protecting drinking water from pesticides

Warning to farmers and land users

Protecting drinking water from pesticides

Promoting the safe use of pesticides.

Leitrim County Council would like to remind farmers and other professional users of pesticides (landscapers/ horticulturalists/ green keepers) of the need to follow best practice in the application of pesticides, such as MCPA, on land and particularly near any water course including any drain, stream, lake, river or any supply used as a drinking water source.

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

The following are measures which will help safeguard against the contamination of waters by pesticides:

  • Choose the right pesticide product, only use if absolutely necessary i.e. consider non chemical methods instead or in tandem with pesticides.
  • Know the location of drinking water sources and abstraction point.
  • Ensure strict compliance with safeguard no–use zones around abstraction points.
  • Read and follow the product label and product instructions.
  • Determine the right amount to purchase and use.
  • Store pesticides in a manner which is secure, dry and cannot result in accidental releases.
  • Take extreme caution during mixing and preparation of pesticides for application to avoid spills/ dripping and to reduce washings and wastewater from the handling area.

At this time of year we are promoting the safe use of pesticides in particular MCPA. MCPA is a herbicide commonly used on grassland; it is very soluble, highly mobile and can easily leach from soil into water. Careless storage, handling or use of pesticides can easily cause breaches of the legal limit for pesticides in drinking water.

There are three recently published leaflets, which provide advice to pesticide users on measures to protect drinking water sources. These leaflets were prepared by a multiagency group convened by the Environmental Protection Agency that include farming representative groups.

‘Don’ts’ when using pesticides

  • Don’t fill water application equipment directly from a water body.
  • Don’t perform pesticide handling operations (filling, mixing or washing of the sprayer) near water bodies, open drains or well heads. A distance of at least 10m should be maintained and preferably 50 meters where possible.
  • Don’t spray if the target area is wet or if heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours of application.
  • Don’t apply pesticides during windy conditions.
  • Don’t apply pesticides near open drains wells or springs.
  • Don’t apply pesticides on waterlogged or poorly draining soils that slope steeply towards a waterbody or on any other vulnerable area that leads directly to water.
  • Don’t discard washings from application equipment down a drain or onto an area from which they can readily enter a waterbody.

Information leaflets on best practice in the use of pesticides to protect water are available from Leitrim County Council 071 96 20005 ext. Environment. There are three leaflets in the series:

Protecting Drinking Water from Pesticides - Advice for Farmers and Other Professional Users.

Protecting Drinking Water From Pesticides - Herbicide Use in Grassland.

Protecting Drinking Water from Pesticides - Advice for Gardeners and Household Users.

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