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Farmers embrace pesticide amnesty

17th June 2021

Partners from the award-winning Upstream Thinking project, which is led by Bournemouth Water, have been offering farmers free and safe disposal of unwanted pesticides across Dorset and as a result have seen a huge success.

The farm pesticide amnesty was organised by Dorset’s Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) team, in partnership with Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water who both funded the project.

Catchment Sensitive Farming is led by Natural England in partnership with Defra and the Environment Agency. It works with farmers on the ground through Catchment Officers to improve water quality in high priority catchment areas providing free advice, training and specialist input.

The amnesty enabled the removal of over 4.6 tonnes of expired, redundant, or banned pesticides and other chemicals from just under 100 farms across Dorset.

This free scheme was aimed at farms located in a high priority area of a Dorset river catchment. It aimed to help farmers remove chemicals that can be difficult or costly to dispose of, whilst also reducing the risk they pose to water quality, the environment and wildlife. Each farmer could use the scheme on a first come first served basis to dispose of up to 75kg of pesticides or herbicides that had been banned or passed their expiry date by using waste disposal partner, Peake (GB) Ltd at no cost to the farm.

Tom Hicks from Dorset’s Catchment Sensitive Farming team said: “The amnesty has shown a great willingness by farmers to take advantage of schemes like this to reduce risks to the water environment. Some of the participating farmers decided to dispose of more pesticides in excess of the scheme’s limit, covering the cost themselves. This removed a further 900kg of pesticides from Dorset’s river catchments.

“The scheme has been a great example of a coordinated and joined-up approach with Natural England’s Catchment Sensitive Farming team and Dorset’s water companies to help farmers deliver water quality improvements with both Bournemouth Water and Wessex Water sponsoring and contributing towards the delivery of the project.”

A farmer who took part in the pesticide amnesty said: “The amnesty has been a great opportunity for me to safely dispose of pesticides that have been in my chemical store for many years that I didn’t know what to do with. It’s been brilliant to work with CSF, Wessex Water and Bournemouth Water on this scheme to reduce the risks that my farm might pose to the water environment and to drinking water quality through minimising the chance of environmental contamination. It’s been a really positive scheme and I am pleased to have had the opportunity to take part.”

Pesticide amnesties are an effective way of safely disposing of farm chemicals to ensure that they won’t ever find their way into streams, rivers and groundwater which could affect drinking water quality and damage the environment. In a 1m x 0.3m stream, one gram of active ingredient from a leaking container of pesticide can be detected 35km downstream, which demonstrates how important the pesticide amnesty has been. Water quality data for Dorset’s main rivers have, on occasion, shown detection of pesticides. By removing chemicals through the amnesty, it is hoped that these detections can be reduced.

David Smith, Upstream Thinking Programme Manager for Bournemouth Water and South West Water, commented: “Although water companies remove chemicals from raw water before it is put into supply, it’s much more sustainable and cost-effective to work with farmers to reduce the chances of pesticides entering our water resources in the first place. It’s better to remove old and unlicensed chemicals from farms and remove the risk of leaking canisters or accidental use or spillage. Even small amounts of pesticide can have a big effect of rivers, many kilometres downstream of a spill. It’s better to prevent these entering the water rather than having to treat them before it becomes drinking water, better for the environment and more cost effective to the customer.”

Paul Stanfield, Head of Catchment Services at Wessex Water, added: “We are pleased to be working with land managers who want to do the right thing for their businesses and improve water quality in the environment.”

If you are a landowner situated within the Upstream Thinking catchment areas and would like advice on land management that will improve the water quality of streams and rivers near your farm, please contact the Upstream Thinking team. More information on which areas the team cover can be found at: www.southwestwater.co.uk/upstream-thinking/

For further information please contact:

Bournemouth Water