Updated 13.05.2020 06:19
Pesticides in the groundwater
Residues of a cancer-causing pesticide pollute the groundwater in the Swiss plateau. The water suppliers warn that our tap water must be treated.
- Claudius Seemann, Daniel Waldmeier
- According to the Federal Office for the Environment, groundwater in 12 cantons is heavily contaminated by crop protection products.
- This pollution is problematic for the water supply because the degradation products can only be removed in an energy-intensive and complex manner.
- For the biologist Caspar Bijleveld, the federal analysis is a warning sign
- SVP National Councilor Andreas Aebi is not concerned about the measurements. There has long been a rethink in agriculture
The groundwater is «considerably» contaminated with the degradation products of the chlorothalonil crop protection product. The limit of 0.1 micrograms per liter of water was exceeded in 12 cantons, according to a new analysis by the Federal Office for the Environment. “The active ingredient chlorothalonil was used in agriculture and it is therefore not surprising that residues are found in groundwater,” says Eva van Beek from the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO). The federal government has now classified chlorothalonil as “probably carcinogenic” and banned its use at the beginning of 2020.
As 80 percent of drinking water in this country is obtained from groundwater and the degradation products can remain in the groundwater for years to come, tap water is also at risk. “The situation is problematic for water suppliers,” says Martin Sager, director of the Swiss Association for Gas and Water (SVGW) in relation to 20 minutes. “You have to do everything you can to prevent foreign substances from getting into the groundwater.”
Expensive treatment of the ground water
Both the water suppliers and the population would like drinking water that is as natural and as little as possible. “Treating the water and getting rid of pesticide degradation products is technically very complex, energy-intensive and expensive,” says Sager. “We welcome all measures that strengthen the precautionary protection of drinking water resources,” says the director of the SVGW. “We call for a binding reduction path for the risk that pesticides and their degradation products can get into the groundwater.”
For the biologist Caspar Bijleveld, who supports the pending initiative to ban artificial pesticides (see box), the federal analysis is another warning sign: “The pesticide problem still persists. The substances get into the water and ultimately into our bodies and we have no idea what the cocktails do in the long term. » It would take a radical rethink so that you could safely drink tap water in the future. “Either the consumers buy a lot more organic and the market regulates the problem, or politics prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and the import of pesticide-contaminated food. »
«You can always find something»
Farmer and SVP National Councilor Andreas Aebi disagrees. The measurements don’t worry him: “The analyzers are getting better and better. You can always find something. » There has long been a rethink in agriculture: “Constant pressure only makes us better. I am confident that the measures taken will reduce the burden. »
Instead of pillorizing the farmers, one has to question the dosing recommendations of the industry: “We are not interested in injecting more than is absolutely necessary. It only costs! » The corona crisis has shown how important it is to have your own food supply. “And we want to have the best in the world.”
Two anti-pesticide initiatives are pending in Switzerland. The “For a Switzerland without synthetic pesticides” initiative demands that farmers are no longer allowed to apply artificial pesticides. The import of food containing pesticides would also be prohibited. The drinking water initiative requires that only those farms that do not use pesticides and do not give antibiotics prophylactically to the animals are supported. The Federal Council rejects both initiatives. He has decided on an action plan to reduce the risks of pesticides. In addition, from 2022 onwards, only direct payments should be received to those who forego plant protection products “with increased environmental risk”.