2 April 1999

Buffers are trimmed but…

Its no joke – Local

Environmental Risk

Assessments for Pesticides

became an option for those

growers wanting to spray

closer to watercourses on

Apr 1. Charles Abel

examines the new rules

EXISTING 6m spray buffer zones alongside watercourses have been dropped in favour of more flexible individual operator assessments, as previewed in farmers weekly (Arable, Mar 12).

In many cases 1m is all that needs leaving between the top of the watercourse bank and the end of the spray boom. The widest buffer is 5m, rather than the previous 6m, which was measured from the edge of the watercourse.

The rules, which came into effect yesterday (Thur Apr 1), legally compel farmers and sprayer operators to conduct and record an individual assessment for each spraying activity which involves a pesticide product carrying a buffer zone requirement.

The outcome of each check, dubbed a Local Environmental Risk Assessment for Pesticides, will indicate how close a spray can be applied to the watercourse. Watercourse width, pesticide product, dose and the spraying equipment used are all considered. But wind direction and margin vegetation are not, despite calls for their inclusion.

Existing 6m buffer zones or the new 5m minimum buffer zone can be applied to all watercourses, the new rules note. But even then the decision must be recorded. Computer records are acceptable.

Pesticides vary in their treatment under LERAP. As for 6m buffer zones many are exempt, although the regulations note that they could be included in future.

For now all organophosphate and synthetic pyrethroid insecticides fall into category A, requiring a 5m buffer zone regardless of other factors and do not need a LERAP conducting or recording.

Other products fall into category B. They can be sprayed at buffer widths from 1-5m, according to watercourse width, sprayer used and dose.

Lists of which products fall into which category will be updated by MAFF each month. Manufacturers, for example, can ask for such materials to be moved into category B if certain environmental safety criteria can be met.

For dry ditches a standard 1m buffer applies to all products requiring a buffer zone, regardless of category. Buffer zones designed for purposes other than the protection of water remain unaffected.

Dose plays an important role, allowing buffers to be cut to the 1m minimum in many cases. Where a tank mix of products is applied the highest dose of a product requiring a buffer zone will dictate the overall dose, not the sum of the individual doses.

Watercourse width must be assessed at the narrowest point, measuring from one edge of the water to the other. Producing a reference map that can be checked when doing a LERAP may help, the guide notes.

Spraying equipment also needs considering. If rated as a LERAP low drift sprayer buffer reductions may be possible. But manufacturers must apply to have equipment star rated for low-drift status.

Lists of equipment achieving LERAP low drift star ratings will be produced by MAFF.

Where a buffer zone is reduced as a result of using a LERAP low-drift sprayer, the equipment must be used for at least the whole of the first swath – a minimum of 12m from the top of the bank of the watercourse, the rules explain.

If, following a LERAP, the buffer zone is reduced by using a reduced dose rate, no further repeat applications may take place on the same area within 48 hours.

Although not a part of the LERAP, direction of application can also help reduce the contamination of watercourses. Spraying should always be carried out in the opposite direction to the flow of the water.

LERAP responsibility

The LERAP can be conducted by sprayer operators themselves, their employer or the farmer or grower with whom they have contracted to work. It may also be undertaken by a professional consultant or adviser.

It is the legal responsibility of the person using the pesticide to carry out the LERAP, or to check that it has been properly carried out, stress the LERAP guidelines. A record must be kept for three years in a form enforcement authorities can inspect.

Much of the LERAP assessment can be done in advance, the guidelines note. All that is needed then is a check that assumptions still apply, such as watercourse width and dose rate, and the final decision recording.

Failure to comply may result in prosecution, either of the operator and/or the farmer or grower or the employer of individual operators.

LERAPRECORDS

&#8226 Must show:

&#8226 Assessment date.

&#8226 LERAP rating of sprayer.

&#8226 Product/s and dose/s.

&#8226 Watercourse width.

&#8226 LERAP result.

&#8226 Identity of person conducting LERAP.

&#8226 Date of application.

LERAP buffer zones for standard spray equipment (and low drift */**/*** equipment)

Full rate 3/4 rate 1/2 rate 1/4 rate

(75.1-100%) (50.1-75%) (25.1-50%) (0-25%)

All watercourses 5m (4/2/1m) 4m(2/2/1m) 2m (1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m)

less than 3m

All watercourses 3m (2/1/1m) 2m (1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m)

3-6m

All watercourses 2m (1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m)

6m or wider

Dry ditch 1m (1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m) 1m(1/1/1m)