Level of pesticides up to 27 times over limit

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The data shows where the pesticide concentration greatly exceeds today's applicable limit. Critics talk of failures by authorities.

The fungicide chlorothalonil used in agriculture has been banned since the start of the year. The government classified it as "likely carcinogenic" for humans. New data now shows: At certain measuring points the concentration of the chlorothalonil residue R471811 is up to 27 times too high.

Government gives two years

These are measurements which were performed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) in 2017. According to the "Sonntagszeitung", in their analysis the experts report that the measured values are particularly worrying because the substance is only slowly decreasing and very little research has been conducted on its consequences for health.

The municipalities with the highest levels include Montmagny VD, Trüllikon ZH, Fischbach LU, Mathod VD and Neerach ZH. The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (BLV) is giving the water suppliers two years to adhere to the new maximum values for all by-products of chlorothalonil. Simple measures to reduce the level must be implemented with immediate effect. This includes mixing exposed water with less exposed water from other sources.

At least 12 cantons affected

According to "Schweiz aktuell", the limits in the groundwater in at least 12 cantons have been exceeded. In the Canton of Bern 178,000 people are affected, in Solothurn 160,000 and in the Canton of Schaffhausen 20,000 people. In the meantime drinking water suppliers even supply water when they cannot adhere to the limits. "We can no longer adhere to the Food Law", says Andreas Hirt from the drinking water supplier Energie Service Biel.

The values give a boost to the drinking water initiative. It requires that farmers only receive subsidies when they do not use any pesticides. The National Council and Council of States reject the initiative without a counterproposal. Previously representatives of the water suppliers announced their possible support of such action. To date, there has been no clear positioning from the association.

"How are we meant to place our trust in them?"

Franziska Herren from the Committee of the Drinking Water Initiative says: "The suppliers provide the population with water that does not correspond to the quality stipulated by the law. The authorities are failing and not doing their job. They do not have a plan about how they want to prevent and eliminate the residues. How are we meant to place our trust in them? Nobody is accepting responsibility for the problem. "The government is hoodwinking the people if it does not publish the measured values."

The fact that the limits are not being observed is an "absolute horror": "We are all directly affected. Newborn children have pesticides in their bottles. You cannot be selective when it comes to water." In addition, there is the fact that the residues are decreasing slowly and may still be in the drinking water for 20 years if no efforts are made. It is optimistic about the vote which could take place on 29 November. "The government says: We cannot adhere to the limits, but continue to drink water silently. The people do not accept this."

"Huge part of the midlands affected"

Paul Sicher from the Swiss Gas and Water Industry Association says: "We estimate that a huge part of the midlands is also affected by chlorothalonil residues in the drinking water." The cantons and suppliers are currently working on analysing the drinking water for the new metabolites of chlorothalonil and determining possible measures. "This could be quite extensive and take several years". The maximum value for the by-products of chlorothalonil has been in force since January. "Before they were falling through the net."

A direct health hazard from the by-products is not assumed, adds Sicher. But: "We cannot tolerate that future generations drink contaminated water." Sicher therefore calls for better protection of the drinking water supplies. If pesticides occur in collection areas in a higher concentration than the drinking water limit, then these can no longer be allowed.

20 Minuten, Level of pesticides up to 27 times over limit, https://www.20min.ch/schweiz/news/story/Trinkwasser-Pestizid-26292451, retrieved on 10.02.2020.

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