A study into the River Feale has found that practices by the farming and forestry farming sectors are the major reasons for its decline in water quality.
In the 20th century, the Feale was regarded as among the country’s most outstanding salmon and sea trout rivers but in recent decades, fish numbers have declined.
The study also found that the overflow from many septic tanks within the river catchment went directly into drains, streams and rivers with little or no treatment.
The Feale rises in North Cork and flows west for 75 kilometres through Abbeyfeale and Listowel before entering the sea near Ballybunion.
The study by engineering and environmental consultants Malachy Walsh and Partners was commissioned by community development organisation West Limerick Resources.
Other organisations involved are North East West Kerry Development (NEWKD) and IRD Duhallow.
It was completed in August last year but has not been made public.
The report finds that pesticide contamination of the upper Feale catchment is a significant problem
According to the authors, pesticide elevation is due to the use of the MCPA herbicide in treating rushes on marginal land and on an insecticide used to control the large pine weevil which is a threat to trees in certified plantations.
The report’s authors say this insecticide, cypermethrin, is extremely toxic to aquatic life.
The authors say the plantation of coniferous species has helped caused peat slides; these were attributed to heavy rainfall combined with physical changes to peat brought about by commercial forestry.
Farmers’ spreading of fertilisers and manure as well as direct discharges or runoff from yards are also affecting water quality in the Feale, the report finds.
The authors say it’s clear from surveys undertaken that agriculture is having a negative impact on water quality and that some serious breaches of environmental legislation were noted in these field surveys.
The report was given to Radio Kerry News by Brendan Danaher, PRO of the Mountcollins and Brosna Anglers' Association - one of the groups that were interviewed for the study.
STATEMENT FROM IRISH FORESTRY UNIT TRUST:Cypermethrin is currently an approved pesticide, approved for use in forestry by the Pesticide Registration and Control Divisions (PRCD) of the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine(DAFM). It is DAFM which decides legally what can be used. Both Coillte and Irish Forestry Unit Trust (IForUT) are FSC certified companies. The derogation is got to do with that voluntary certification scheme and the derogation expired in 2021. We did not renew it as we had found an alternative chemical. We were actively reducing our use of this chemical during 2020. In fact, we had not used it whatsoever in 2020 in either Kerry or Limerick, and we did not use cypermethrin in the area during the study period. We haven’t used it at all in 2021 or 2022.
NOTES REGARDING CYPERMETHRIN: The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the competent authority in Ireland with responsibility for the authorisation of plant protection products (PPPs).
Active substances such as cypermethrin, contained in PPPs are approved centrally at EU level. PPPs are subsequently authorised or not nationally by the competent authority. A list of currently registered PPPs can be found at Plant Protection Products register. None of the cypermethrin containing PPPs currently registered are approved for use in forestry in Ireland. A previously authorised product, Forester (PCS 02533) was removed from our register with effect from 1 February 2022, following publication of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/2049.