Tipperary cattle deaths: scare as two cows die in Silvermines from lead poisoning

A meeting over a lead poisoning scare in Silvermines scheduled for this Wednesday by a number of State agencies has been postponed for now.

It is expected that the meeting, which will involve Tipperary County Council, the EPA, the HSE, Teagasc, the Department of Agriculture, and Food Safety Authority of Ireland, will now go ahead in the next week after a number of agencies indicated they were unable to attend this week. The inter-agency investigation will be led by the Department of Agriculture.

The meeting will focus on trying to locate the source of lead that killed two cows in the area in February. The lead poisoning was discovered when the cows were examined at a Department of Agriculture laboratory in Limerick. 

Subsequent follow-up tests were carried out on 20 dairy herds in the locality. It was then discovered that a number of other herds had high lead content, some of which were above the permitted levels and some which were not. Two had their milk supply restricted.

However, The Tipperary Star has been told that one of these herds has since been given the all-clear while the other has had 75 per cent of its cows cleared for milk production.

The inter-agency meeting will look at possible sources for the lead, including that heavy winter rains over the past number of years may have caused flooding that may have washed lead into fields that entered the forage.

“The aim will be to review the recommendations of a previous report and to see if anything further needs to be done,” Sean Keating, director of services, Tipperary County Council said.

That may involve checking out lead levels in forage following winter flooding or heavy rains.

Mr Keating was keen to highlight that no drinking water was affected, though he didn't rule out the review looking at the issue.

Initially it had been thought that the cattle may have accessed lead through illegal dumping at a nearby site, but the council has ruled this out. They are in the process of following up on the illegal dumping.

The issue was raised at the April meeting of Tipperary County Council when Mr Keating reminded councillors that there has been a lead poisoning problem at Silvermines for centuries because of its history of mining.

"There was a previous incident in the late 1990s that prompted an inter-agency investigation after which an expert group of international experts was set up and a significant remediation programme costing more than €10m was carried out, which was very successful," he told councillors.

Mr Keating said that the issue was not connected to recent calls from Cllr John Carroll and Deputy Alan Kelly for the State to purchase land near Gortmore tailings pond, which was recommended in 2013 by the Department of Energy.

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