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    Philippe Vachet, Head of the Ille-et-Vilaine office
    Philippe Vachet talks about the effectiveness of an evaluation and inspection operation linked with information efforts to stop the use of phytosanitary products along rivers.

VERBATIM

Philippe Vachet, Head of the Ille-et-Vilaine office

Philippe Vachet talks about the effectiveness of an evaluation and inspection operation linked with information efforts to stop the use of phytosanitary products along rivers.

To fight against the use of phytosanitary produces along rivers, you ran an evaluation in your department. What exactly did you do and what were the results?

A number of times, we had noted damage to vegetation along rivers due to the use of phytosanitary products. We decided to evaluate a limited sector, i.e. the 15 kilometres of the Valière stream and its affluent, the Rouillon. Once the evaluation protocol had been validated by the regional plant-protection service and by the State prosecutor's offices, eight technicians, in groups of two, walked along the streams over three days to detect any treated zones. The results were impressive, some 15% of the streams had received phytosanitary products directly in the stream bed, 27% of the banks were treated within the 1-metre zone and another 27% were treated within the 5-metre zone. We visited the people working the treated zones, of whom a vast majority were farmers, to obtain information on the products used and evaluate the ecotoxicological risks. Almost two-thirds of the products were dangerous or even highly toxic for aquatic life. Even worse, almost all the products were likely to cause long-term negative effects on the aquatic environment.

Given the results, you contacted the administrative authorities…

We wrote up a report that was presented by Philippe Bossard, in charge of inspections at the Onema regional office in Rennes, to the Regional committee for the prevention of water pollution by pesticides*. Given the poor results, the regional plant-protection service began to design a more strict procedure governing the use of pesticides. The service succeeded in obtaining a decision by the préfet to ban, throughout Brittany, the use of phytosanitary products in or within one metre of all ditches, rivers (even dry), rain-water collection systems, water outlets, wells and drilling sites. Product users not respecting the ban are liable for up to six months prison and 30 000 euros in fines (article L 253-17 in the Rural code). The decision was published on 4 April 2005, two years after our results were made public. A vast campaign was launched to inform people and raise awareness, targeting primarily farmers, but also the general public.

Two years later, the results speak for themselves

We carried out the same inspection in 2007, on the same site. The percentage of the streams that had received phytosanitary products directly in the stream bed dropped to zero. Similarly, treatments within the 1-metre zone were exceptional. These results clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the efforts made. Those efforts can be undertaken in all regions where the use of phytosanitary products causes problems. I think it is important to include this type of action in the inspection programmes established by the MISE (Inter-service water group). The Ille-et-Vilaine office is pursuing this approach in that it is currently preparing a joint inspection mission with the National agency for hunting and wildlife** in a river basin where the concentration levels of phytosanitary products are close to the permissible limit for drinking water supplied to the population. Our efforts, which will also target the general public, are part of a priority programme to protect public health.

* CORTEP , ** ONCFS