Chemical puts reservoir out of service

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Jersey Water’s chief executive, Helier Smith, says the company has had to close Handois, in St Lawrence, after the level of pollution exceeded the regulatory drinking water quality standards.

However, he added, as there are five other reservoirs to draw water from for treatment the mains supply to Island homes and businesses remains safe to drink.

‘We can confirm there has not been a breach in treated water standards as a result of this incident, and we have not had a pesticide breach since the last minor one in February 2016,’ he said.

This is the first serious water pollution incident for two years since high levels of farming chemicals were detected around the Island. Val de la Mare was closed for five months and Jersey Water had to divert polluted streams around Queen’s Valley and other reservoirs to maintain a safe drinking supply to Island homes.

Since then farmers have been working with Jersey Water and the Environment Department to clean up the Island’s surface water sources, through the Action for Cleaner Water Group.

Environment attributes the latest pollution incident to run off from fields in heavy rainfall over the winter. Environment Minister Steve Luce is urging farmers to check the weather forecast before applying pesticides or spreading slurry for dairy farms on their land.

‘With the heavy rain likely to continue for a while, I urge farmers to check the forecast before spraying, not to spray on water logged fields to reduce the chance of run off – and to take care in choosing the right fields to apply slurry for maximum benefit and minimum environmental impact,’ he said.

‘The potato season isn’t yet in full swing and the area in which exceedances were recorded has not yet been planted with potatoes. Officers will be monitoring water quality closely in the coming weeks and, as usual, investigating any significant traces of pesticides in untreated surface water.’

Since the last serious incident when Val de la Mare was closed, farmers have introduced voluntary controls on the use of some pesticides in reservoir catchment areas. In addition successful trials into the precision application of fertilizers, mean the new practices are being rolled out this year across 80 per cent of potato growing fields.

Overall, Islandwide results show that water quality continues to improve and that nitrate and pesticide levels in steams are on a long-term downward trend.

Deputy Luce said: ‘I am pleased with the continued close dialogue and co-operation of our farmers, who have gone the extra mile to improve the way they work.

‘However, although the overall trend is positive, there are still occasions when we’re picking up pesticide traces over the regulatory limits. We will continue to investigate these to get the balance right to ensure we have a viable industry with a minimal negative impact on the environment.’

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