Major Netherlands water source found to be chemically contaminated

The water utility company Waterleiding Maatschappij Limburg (WML) has temporarily stopped using the Maas river (also called the Meuse river) as a source for drinking water extraction due to a chemical contaminate called prosulfocarb.

Prosulfocarb is a weed killer commonly used in agriculture and WML spokesperson Koen Augustijn tells the news source 1Limburg that “We know for sure that this substance comes from Belgium.” He says that in early November, Rijkswaterstaat – the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management – measured the level of the substance in Eijsden water in and immediately warned WML, who promptly stopped extracting drinking water from the Maas.

The maximum limit for prosulfocarb in drinking water is one microgram per liter, the Maas water tested at about two micrograms. Though the Maas drinking water extraction halted around 1 November, WML does not foresee a water shortage because they collect Maas water “in a large basin in Heel and that still contains enough water for the coming period.”

On their website, WML classifies the Maas as a “vulnerable source for drinking water” and explains, “Approximately 25% of Limburg drinking water is made from original Maas water. If WML cannot take Meuse water for a longer period of time, then we can rely on groundwater for the production of drinking water for a while. However, that capacity is limited.”

WLM says to 1Limburg that harmful substances are being discovered more frequently in Maas water, causing approximately 50 intake stops per year though they typically do not last as long as the current Prosulfocarb-related intake stop. WML could not predict when the Maas water will be potable again but 1Limburg reports the water is being checked daily and will need to demonstrate Prosulfocarb levels of “less than one microgram per liter” for several consecutive days before the water is safe for consumption.


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