The association for the protection of the rhine and its tributaries (VSR) was on 9. September with an information booth in forchheim. The environmentalists, according to their own press release, had told some burgers that their well water contained too much nitrate. In total, the water from 76 privately used wells in the area of forchheim – hallerndorf – eggolsheim was analyzed. One in six well owners has been told that their sample exceeds the german drinking water ordinance’s limit of 50 milligrams.
The reason for this is seen by the environmentalists in intensive agriculture. "The previous dung ordinances allowed the agricultural industry to grow and to overrun its agricultural land at the expense of the environment", claims susanne bareib-gulzow, chairwoman of VSR water protection. The environmental form of agriculture, to which many farms paid, on the other hand, disappeared more and more.
The organization therefore advises burgers to make sure that their purchases come from farmers who take nitrate pollution seriously.
Heavily polluted samples
Physicist harald gulzow, VSR water protection project manager, and lennart hoster, a federal volunteer, found 155 milligrams of nitrate per liter in a privately used well in nainsdorf near adelsdorf, for example. Other wells heavily polluted with nitrates were found by the environmentalists in stolzenroth near pommersfelden with 64 milligrams per liter (mg/l), in willersdorf with 113 mg/l, in heroldsbach with 62 mg/l and in steinbach with 106 mg/l.
Not suitable for fish ponds
At the information booth, according to the VSR, many well owners had shown that they were angry about these nitrate contamination levels. It is a pity that the water is therefore not suitable for filling garden ponds. There is a danger that algae will multiply en masse. Dead plants could subsequently lead to fish kills. The contaminated well water could also lead to nitrate accumulation in the vegetables when they are planted in the garden.
Environmentalists see an opportunity in organic farming and regional marketing, which puts food quality and environmentally contractual farming at the forefront. By buying consciously, customers can help reduce nitrate pollution in the forchheim region.
Farmers’ association criticizes: "a horror scenario on a false basis"
The well water test and the conclusion of the VSR water protection in forchheim paint a distorted picture of agriculture in the region, criticizes district chairman hermann greif of the bavarian farmers’ association (BBV). "A horror scenario is being conjured up on a false basis", explains hermann greif, who was confronted by the FT with criticism from environmentalists.
"Thanks to many cooperative environmental protection measures, our farmers are already doing an enormous amount for the protection of our water", he counters. This was also made clear by current figures: in bavaria, from 2013 to 2015, more than 96 percent of the required raw water volume as well as the drinking water extraction plants examined complied with the limit value of 50 milligrams of nitrate per liter.
Private home gardens often contaminated
"Where are these 76 privately used wells located in the forchheim area and how is the soil fertilized there??", the farmer representative criticizes the starting point of the investigation. Very often, private wells were located in a home garden where the owner simply distributes purchased compost or mineral manure without soil testing and does not know how its nitrogen (nitrate), phosphate, potassium or its lime (ph) levels are. Very often, in soil tests in home gardens, it was found that these soils are contaminated.
It would not be surprising, therefore, if these excessive nitrate levels were found in shallow wells for process water. Greif points out that livestock farming in the forchheim area has halved in the past 20 years due to the permanent closure of farms. "And many farmers will continue to discontinue their livestock farming because there are always strict legal requirements due to the manure ordinance", warns the BBV-county chairman.
"It is therefore a disgrace that the association for the protection of water produces rubbishy headlines and thus pillories the farmers", hermann greif criticizes: "in germany there is a very strict limit for the nitrate content in drinking water and every drop from the tap complies with this limit."
According to all available data from the environmental authorities, the nitrate content in bavarian groundwater has remained constant over the last two decades.