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Jersey in EU hot water over nitrate limits?

Jersey in EU hot water over nitrate limits?

Thursday 23 April 2015

Jersey in EU hot water over nitrate limits?

Thursday 23 April 2015

Action could be taken over nitrate levels over EU safety limits in Jersey's water, according to the Environment department.

The latest figures show that Jersey Water's supplies are within EU limits, but "raw water" running off fields regularly exceeds them. The Environment department has issued the water company with a dispensation that expires on 31 December 2016 - the company haven't had to use that dispensation since 2013, for a slight breach of the limit.

The comments came during a hearing in which it was revealed that thousands of families are relying on borehole water that is over the EU safety limits. There are around 8,000 people living off borehole water, and around half of those are over the current EU limits.

Jersey isn’t the only place potentially in hot water over nitrate limits – the UK, Germany, Belgium and Malta also have water that is over the EU safety limit.

Environment Minister Steve Luce said: “One thing that is changing is that the medical advice from around the world is different and certainly there is more emphasis being placed on the levels of nitrate in water.

“We are advised, as the Department which issues dispensations to Jersey Water, that our advice will be quite soon that we should not be continuing to issue dispensations, so we are fully aware now that in the coming years we may well not be in a position to issue those dispensations.”

His department say that in 1994, nitrate levels were recorded at 70 miligrams per litre – that figure had reduced to 58 miligrams by 2013, because Jersey Water and the Environment department had worked to get the numbers down.

But it takes around two years for any action to filter through to affecting nitrate levels, so there is a lead-in to actually making an impact.

Deputy Luce told the hearing of the Environment Scrutiny Panel last month: “We are talking to farmers, and certainly where I have the opportunity now, I am telling the agricultural industry that this is an issue that cannot be brushed under the table any longer, it has got to be addressed, it has got to be addressed in short order, as it turns out.”

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Posted by Havelock Jones on
This is down to all the farmer's high use of fertilizer which gets washed into the streams and into the water processing system. Also what about the high levels of pesticide/herbicide residues from the constant spraying?
Posted by Tina Le Main on
When did we join the EU?
Posted by Trevor Carre on
I agree with the comment above, however I still find it hard to believe in the 21st century that 8,000 homes in Jersey are not connected to mains drinking water. These nitrates are also being washed into the sea, which is probably causing the green lettuce on the beaches each year
Posted by Tilly the Toad on
Yes - but isn't it funny how each year with the arrival of the sea lettuce there is no mention of the farmers, all the blame goes to TTS!! Maybe now a more balanced view can be taken??
Posted by One Crapaud on
Need to look at natural and sustainable solutions; farming without the use of fertilsers would signal the end of the farming sector in Jersey. However when the nutrients reach the sea the presence of shellfish in coastal waters would clean up the water and remove the nutrients so part of the answer is to make sure there are enough shellfish in our bays. St Aubin's Bay has natural cockle beds but obviously they are not there in sufficient quantity to prevent the sea lettuce growing each summer - so we somehow need to get more shellfish into the bay to help address that problem
Posted by Glyn mitchell on
Nitrogen run off.
First I would like to say you would be unwise to blame only the farmers. Anyone who applies Growmore, MiracleGrow etc are as guilty of increasing the nitrate levels in the soil as anyone else.

Although not apparent to the naked eye, a healthy soils is a dynamic living system that is teeming with life. Most of the organisms that live in the soil are beneficial micro-organisms such as fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and nematodes. While seemingly insignificant, they are represented in the millions in any given soil, providing a range of important services that promote plant growth and vigour.
The collective term for all of these organisms is the 'soil food web'. The interactions amongst these organisms can provide plants with many of the requirements that they need to survive and flourish which includes the availability & retention of nutrients, disease suppression, and the building of soil structure. However, soil biology is an aspect that has largely been overlooked with many growers preferring to settle for something delivering a quick short term fix. The use of chemicals to kill pathogens and pests can also kill the beneficial organisms. The result is a sterile environment conducive to further disease and nutrient deficiencies. The quick fix often leads to a grower’s dependency on more and more artificial chemical and fertilisers to maintain his crops, as with each application he is killing the natural soil food web. This could be compared to developing a drug dependency and the need to enter rehabilitation to kick the habit.
A balanced and healthy soil food web provides many benefits including the need for fertiliser, pesticide and water requirements can all be substantially reduced. This is accomplished by understanding what good guys and bad guys populate your soil and then applying a good organic compost to provide healthy competition. Bacteria are responsible for producing organic Nitrate (NO3) they get eaten by nematodes who excrete ammonium (NH4), or nitrate (NO2) ions. This important process is called nitrogen fixation. Industrial fixation (inorganic nitrate) can not be consumed into a plant available form by microorganisms, so after the plants has taken up all it can absorb the rest leaches into our soil and ends up in our drinking water. It is akin to throwing away money.
So the question remains who is responsible for the clean up. There is an argument that suggests the Department that licences the application of Inorganic applications should be held responsible for the clean up cost, not organisations further down the line. Which puts Deputy Luce in a predicament, so why not introduce a charge on nitrate and “cides” through the dock heads and use the revenue received to support farmers wanting to move to more natural methods of growing organic food?
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