Denmark’s waterworks to be tested after pesticide discovery

Denmark’s Minister for the Environment has requested all waterworks across the country be tested for a pesticide which may be a health hazard.

Denmark's waterworks to be tested after pesticide discovery
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

All municipalities in the country must test drinking water for the pesticide chlorothalonil amidosulfonic acid, which has previously been used in agriculture and to make paint.

The pesticide, which may be a health hazard, has been discovered in two drinking water wells, Minister for the Environment and Food Jakob Ellemann-Jensen confirmed to broadcaster DR.

“I am asking municipalities to test for this, because I want to be sure that it is not in our drinking water. We are taking this very seriously, because it may be harmful to our genetic material,” the minister said.

Whether the contaminated water has actually made it into tap water consumed by the public is currently uncertain.

The chemical was used in the production of wheat, potatoes, peas and onions in Denmark between 1986 and 2000. It was banned by the EU in March this year.

It has also been used in surface treatments for wood and in base paints.

It has not previously been on a list of chemicals for which waterworks are obliged to test, but has now been included after an analysis by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen) and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS). The two agencies evaluated the risk of all pesticides used in Denmark since 1956.

Tests for the presence of the chemical in tap water are expected to take around two months, while a producer of the pesticide is also testing in order to confirm whether or not it can damage genetic information in cells.

The results from those tests are expected in July or August, Ellemann-Jensen said in response to a question from parliament’s environmental and food committee.

READ ALSO: Danes hospitalised after drinking too much tap water

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Greenpeace sounds alarm over Spain’s ‘poisonous mega farms’

The “uncontrolled” growth of industrial farming of livestock and poultry in Spain is causing water pollution from nitrates to soar, Greenpeace warned in a new report on Thursday.

Greenpeace sounds alarm over Spain's 'poisonous mega farms'
Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of Murcia Mar Menor saltwater lagoon. Photo: JOSEP LAGO / AFP

The number of farm animals raised in Spain has jumped by more than a third since 2015 to around 560 million in 2020, it said in the report entitled “Mega farms, poison for rural Spain”.

This “excessive and uncontrolled expansion of industrial animal farming” has had a “serious impact on water pollution from nitrates”, it said.

Three-quarters of Spain’s water tables have seen pollution from nitrates increase between 2016 and 2019, the report said citing Spanish government figures.

Nearly 29 percent of the country’s water tables had more than the amount of nitrate considered safe for drinking, according to a survey carried out by Greenpeace across Spain between April and September.

The environmental group said the government was not doing enough.

It pointed out that the amount of land deemed an “area vulnerable to nitrates” has risen to 12 million hectares in 2021, or 24 percent of Spain’s land mass, from around eight million hectares a decade ago, yet industrial farming has continued to grow.

“It is paradoxical to declare more and more areas vulnerable to nitrates”, but at the same time allow a “disproportionate rise” in the number of livestock on farms, Greenpeace said.

Pollution from hundreds of intensive pig farms played a major role in the collapse of one of Europe’s largest saltwater lagoons, the Mar Menor in Spain’s southeast, according to a media investigation published earlier this week.

Scientists blamed decades of nitrate-laden runoffs for triggering vast blooms of algae that had depleted the water of the lagoon of oxygen, leaving fish suffocating underwater.

Two environmental groups submitted a formal complaint in early October to the European Union over Spain’s failure to protect the lagoon.