Levels of slug pesticide in Northamptonshire water reduced

Police and fire services are currently on scene at Pitsford Reservoir.
Police and fire services are currently on scene at Pitsford Reservoir.
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Efforts to cut slug pesticide in our waters have met with some success, according to latest findings.

A trial project was launched by Anglian Water last year to help farmers reduce the amount of pesticides which end up in the region’s reservoirs, including three in Northamptonshire.

The Slug It Out campaign aims to reduce the levels of metaldehyde in rivers and reservoirs by encouragin farmers to use alternatives to metaldehyde to control slugs on their land.

The chemical is used to control slugs, which are damaging to crops.

Although harmless to humans, the chemical is very difficult to remove at water treatment works and there are tough EU targets in place for the UK to meet.

Even tiny ammounts, the equivalent of one drop in an Olympic sized swimming pool, would go against European rules.

The first 12 months of the trial have seen a 60 per cent drop in levels of the chemical metaldehyde detected in reservoir tributaries.

However, levels of metaldehyde continued to exceed EU limits in four out of the six reservoir catchments involved in the trial.

Farmers within the natural catchments of the reservoirs in Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire have been working with Anglian Water’s team of advisors over the past year on the campaign.

The area covers more than 7,000 hectares and the first year of the trial saw 89 farmers signing up to take part.

The trial area covered 7,679 hectares and an estimated 1,613 kg of metaldehyde was removed from the farmed landscape.

As first reported on the Farmers Guardian website, levels of metaldehyde detected in the Hollowell and Ravensthorpe Reservoirs in Northamptonshire were compliant with regulations and remained below the statutory limit during the trial’s first year.

In Pitsford Water, Grafham Water, Alton Water in Suffolk and Ardleigh Reservoir near Colchester, however, there were still exceedances but overall levels were reduced significantly.

The average levels of metaldehyde in reservoir tributaries across all the catchments fell by 60 per cent, while the average peak levels detected within the reservoirs fell by 26 per cent.

Lucinda Gilfoyle from Anglian Water said: “What the first year of our trial has revealed is that by working together we can reduce metaldehyde levels in raw water sources – but that removing metaldehyde from the fields is not the silver bullet solution some may have hoped for.

“We know that a more detailed and longer term strategy is needed if we are to comply with pesticide regulations, and we will be building on these results as we move forward to help identify the package of measures needed.”