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Slurry spreading: Warning issued after ammonia found in water

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) have issued a statement about the contamination of water, particularly in the River Derg in County Tyrone.

The farm organisation raised the issue in response to the high levels of nitrogen in the form of ammonia that have been detected in the waterway.

The UFU has stated that they are aware of the ongoing water quality issues and are urging farmers to think carefully before spreading slurry, anaerobic digestate or other organic manures to reduce the risk for the watercourse.

“In recent years, there have been concerning raised levels of nitrogen in the form of ammonia, particularly in the River Derg, leading to temporary shutdowns of the local Water Treatment Works.”

“If slurry is spread on poor, very wet ground or during or just before wet weather conditions, it can run off the land and this results in high ammonia levels in watercourses. This can be difficult and expensive to treat in order to provide the high-quality drinking water we all expect.”

Spread when conditions allow

“Drinking water is abstracted from the River Derg at Derg Water Treatment Works, downstream of Spamount, where water quality is monitored 24/7 before the water enters the water treatment process. Derg Water Treatment Works automatically shuts down every time the ammonia level rises above set levels, in order to protect our drinking water quality.”

“The ammonia problems do, however, have cost implications and water resource implications for NI Water as water production has to be stopped, sometimes for up to 14 hours at a time whenever very prolonged spikes occur. The cause of the recent ammonia spikes is currently being investigated by NIEA staff in the area.”

The UFU advise farmers to follow the NAP regulations and only spread when conditions allow in order to protect the environment, minimise nutrient losses and avoid penalties being applied to area payments.

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