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Collaborative approach helps cut pesticides entering water supply

Use of bunded areas, drip trays, biofilters and biobeds are helping to reduce the risk of pesticides entering the water supply in one Lincolnshire-based catchment area


Marianne   Curtis

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Marianne   Curtis
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Collaboration with farmers in the catchment area of the Winterton Holmes water treatment works has been a key factor in the decision to upgrade and re-open it after it was closed six years ago due to contamination of two of the six bore holes supplying it with herbicides clopyralid and bentazone.

 

The Anglian Water facility, based near Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, was re-opened by chief executive of the company, Peter Simpson.

 

Drinking water standards state that no individual pesticide must exceed 0.1µg/l (0.1ppb); this is an extremely small amount and equates to a single stem of hay in 111,000 bales, or one grain of wheat in 390 tonnes, according to Anglian Water.

 

Up to 70 per cent of pesticides found in rivers can be attributed to pesticide handling areas in farm yards and upon investigation, the likely source of the pollution at Winterton was a single capful of clopyralid spilt in a farm yard, says the company.

 

To address the issue, Anglian Water has adopted a catchment management approach, working with seven local farmers to improve the pesticide handling facilities within farm yards. The work has focused on ensuring spills and drips are contained and that pollution risk is managed at its source by preventing it from entering the water.

 

Kelly Hewson-Fisher, catchment advisor at Anglian Water said the company had liaised with the Environment Agency to understand the catchment area of land feeding aquifers from which Anglian Water abstracts water and identified yards used for pesticides handling.

 

“We employed an agricultural engineer, Charles Bentley of Adas to design a solution. We worked with seven farms in a catchment management approach – a collaborative approach.

 

“Every farm is unique and individual. A drip tray was used for a small unit using contractors who didn’t fill up in the catchment.”

 

Biobed

 

In another case, a biobed was provided where the sprayer was reversed on to it for filling.

 

One of the largest projects, funded by Anglian Water, at H H James & Son, Northlands Farm, Winterton, has seen construction of a bunded and roofed area for filling and washing the sprayer, as well as storing chemicals, where all drops and spills drain into a catch pit before being pumped through a biofilter, explains Ms Hewson-Fisher. “Everything is contained in one building.”

 

Steve Parker, project leader at Anglian Water, said the company is working with the University of Lincolnshire to disseminate information learned during the project. “We are working with them on a demonstration site, putting in biofilters, biobeds and Heleosecs [latter are designed to contain and concentrate pesticide waste for disposal using evaporation] that farmers can visit and learn from.”


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On-farm: H H James & Son, Northlands Farm, Winterton.

 

John James, who farms 1,214ha (3,000 acres) with son William, grows winter wheat, oilseed rape, winter barley, spring barley, sugar beet and vining peas on mainly limestone soils with some heavy carr land and sand. He says the new facility has improved pesticides handling on the farm.

 

“Before we had the pesticide handling facility we filled the sprayer in the open yard and had to take chemicals to the mixing point from the store.

 

“We are confident this is a better working environment for operators and while mixing, if there is a spill or splash of chemical, we are confident that it will be contained in the building and not leak into the water supply.

 

“The sprayer can be left in the building so that any chemical that drops off is contained. It is also good to be able to wash filters and nozzles in the building knowing the washings go through the biofilter and that we are not washing out and it is going down the drain.”

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