EU anti-pollution law on agricultural nitrate proving effective, report finds


THE IMPLEMENTATION of legislation to prevent nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters is proving effective, a European Commission report published yesterday says.

However, in some regions, nitrate concentrations exceed water quality standards and farmers must adopt sustainable practices, said the report on the implementation of the nitrates directive. It reported that between 2004 and 2007, nitrate concentrations in surface water including rivers, lakes and canals remained stable or fell at 70 per cent of monitored sites. Quality at 66 per cent of groundwater monitoring sites was stable or improving.

But the report revealed a number of regions where nitrate levels were “worrying” in groundwater sites, including parts of Estonia, southeast Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, several parts of France, northern Italy, northeast Spain, southeast Slovakia, southern Romania, Malta and Cyprus.

The agricultural use of nitrates in organic and chemical fertilisers has been a major source of water pollution. While nitrates are a vital nutrient to help plants and crops grow, high concentrations are harmful to people and nature.

The Irish Farmers’ Association environment committee chairman Pat Farrell said the report proved farmers were playing their part in safeguarding water quality.