Protecting water; now a pan European activity

Press Releasein Industry News

TOPPS UK, Harper Adams University College UK spray operators - with the support of the VI - have in the past, and continue to do so much, in preventing pesticides getting into water.

TOPPS [Training the Operators to prevent Pollution from Point Sources] involves 15 countries and is funded for three years by EU Life and ECPA.

Emphasis is on: point source pollution - as this is a major contributing route - and training - since this form of pollution is largely avoidable through better operator practices.

First step: All participating countries had to agree those Best Management Practices for farm pesticide use that may pose a water polluting risk. Not surprisingly - at every stage when the product is on the farm and being used -transport, storage, spraying and waste/remnant management - there are actions and equipment that need to be in place if we are all to prevent just a few drops of spilt/misused pesticide breaking our - EU wide - water and environmental quality standards. These agreed Best Practices will be familiar to you all and will already be second nature to most.

Some examples: TOPPS BMPs require, for example, stored pesticides to be kept - before use - in a locked and bunded facility, to use a loading area adapted to retain spills, to implement the needs of Buffer Zones and protect environmentally sensitive areas. Some requirements will be UK specifications only and TOPPS will enthusiastically support your continued NRoSO membership and the NSTS scheme; all highly visible activities that reassure the public that you know what you are doing, that you are responsible and that you care about the environment as much as many environmentalists

Second step: Many other EU countries do not have the same approaches or levels of commitment to sprayers and spraying that we have benefited from in the UK. Agreed training material and demonstrations - at events and at Harper Adams TOPPS 'demonstration' farm - will, after careful selection, complement VI activities. Some of this material and/or its emphasis may be new to UK operators for it will be focussed just on 'point source' polluting risks rather than the more general approach that will include losses, for example, by diffusion and/or leaching. Greater emphasis will, therefore, be placed on activities such as external sprayer cleaning since German authorities state that over 90% of their ground water contamination with pesticides is attributed to 'inappropriate cleaning'. Our skills and sprayer designs for effective internal cleaning are now 'second to none' but - through TOPPS activities - we may see more emphasis placed on removing external deposits - safely and effectively.

Third step: Water companies have the responsibility to provide clean, safe water to the public. It is going to be critical with VI and TOPPS activities that - your continued better practices - do actually bring about the reduced pesticide contaminant levels that are sought. Even simple measures can make dramatic improvements. In Sweden, all wells and boreholes are capped, have no spray zones in place within their vicinity and their location recorded on farm maps. Sounds familiar? It is but this simple measure have been proven by chemical analysis to make huge improvements to the quality of their water extracted at these points. In the UK, monitoring of water for the presence of pesticides by water supplying companies, the Environment Agency and others will continue to take place to generate the vital feed back that is needed; they need 'to close the loop' between us all who use sprayers in the UK, our better practices and their quest for even further improved water purity.

See TOPPS Leaflet :- Best Practice, Best Water Protection

Simon Cooper and Bill Taylor

TOPPS UK, Harper Adams University College

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