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// MINISTER DEFIED EU COMMISSIONER ON SLURRY SPREADING
FIE PRESS RELEASE
16 NOVEMBER 2011
MINISTER DEFIED EU COMMISSIONER ON SLURRY SPREADING
The environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment have lodged a formal complaint to the European Commissioner for the Environment over Environment Minister Phil Hogan's extension to the slurry spreading period for farmers last month.
The Minister extended the period for slurry spreading for two weeks beyond the Regulations, which require an end to slurry spreading by October 15th.
‘The Commissioner made it very clear in January of the year in a reply to Marian Harkin, MEP, that no extensions to the agreed slurry spreading period were to be authorised.
"The contention that fertiliser spreading be permitted during times of occasional suitable weather during the closed period overlooks the fact that growth is either very limited or not taking place which would mean that the risk of leaching, particularly of nitrates into ground and surface water would be very high. Likewise, weather forecasting is not sufficiently precise as to ensure fertiliser would not be subject to run off and leaching in the event of poor weather following application, particularly when such conditions frequently occur during the established closed periods." ‘
In their complaint, the group provides statistics from the Irish meteorological office that shows that rainfall levels in the second half of October were in fact record breaking in many parts of the country.
They also provide statistics from the most recent Report of the European Centre for Communicable Diseases which reveal that Ireland has the highest rate of two of the diseases transmitted through slurry.
One is the well-known cryptosporidiosis which affected Galway for 6 months in 2007 and where there have been outbreaks across the country since. Ireland also recorded the highest confirmed case rate for a potentially fatal disease know as ‘STEC' - [STEC/VTEC - Vero/shiga toxin-producing e.coli 0157].
A spokesman pointed out that ‘Both of these diseases are spread through the faeces of farm animals. With only token set-backs of 2 metres from our drinking water abstraction bodies, the Commissioner was quite right to refuse to allow the spreading of this material when adverse weather conditions are very possible.'
The submission provides graphs showing that the seasonal peak for infection by both of these diseases is the September to November period, when farmers in Ireland spread the bulk of their slurry.
The group notes the significant expansion of slotted sheds for cattle under the CAP funding 2007 - 2012 and the Food Harvest 2020 targets of an increase in exports from the food sector of 45%, much of it based on beef and milk products.
‘In these circumstances, it is highly irresponsible to allow continued increases in slurry spreading. Farmers must be required to use separation or anaerobic digesters to reduce the need for slurry spreading and prevent the health risks of contamination of the country's drinking water.
The Report from the European Centre for Communicable Diseases shows that cost of the farming sector's production methods now falls on the country's Health Service.
The group has also written to the Minister for Health, Dr. James O'Reilly, seeking his support in controlling the contamination of water supplies by slurry spreading and the consequent cost to the health service.
Read the Letter to the European Commissioner | The letter to the Irish Minister for Health | The 2009 Report on cryptosporidium in Lough Arrow that warns of wide spread contamination by cryptosporidium and the danger to public health | The 1997 Geological Survey of Ireland paper that outlines the hows and whys of drinking water contamination from Cryptosporidium and e.coli. |