9 April 2014

The Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association’s quest to get barley straw products pulled from the EU Biocides Regulation is flourishing again after it received responses from the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

The popular pond products are included in the EU law, which came into force last year, although OATA won a reprieve for the items after officials said they would look into what information manufacturers had to supply to enable the products to remain on the shelves over the longer term.

But OATA wants the products removed altogether from the regulation, which will save the time and costs of demonstrating how the products, which sell for a matter of pounds, work.

“We continue to maintain that it makes no sense to have safety concerns for barley straw products which go into our garden ponds when no-one seems worried about the amount of barley straw tipped into our reservoirs to control algae,” said OATA Chief Executive Keith Davenport.

“It seems water companies don’t have to carry out any kind of risk assessment on the barley straw that goes into reservoirs yet dry goods manufacturers could end up doing expensive risk assessments for products that sell for just a matter of pounds and which end up in garden ponds.

“I’ve raised this point with the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the Health and Safety Executive – which has responsibility for enforcing the regulation – and water companies to try to find out just how much barley straw goes into what ends up as our drinking water.

“But apparently no-one knows or seems to care as our latest correspondence from the Drinking Water Inspectorate shows. Yet we have this sledgehammer piece of legislation about products that go into our garden ponds. It seems the powers-that-be have more safety concerns about garden pond water than tap water. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – that’s still just plain bonkers.”

In a letter to OATA, the DWI said: “I can confirm we have had no correspondence with the HSE or any other government body on the subject of the use of barley straw to control algae in the water supply infrastructure.”

If barley straw products are not removed from the regulation then manufacturers will have to pay for complicated risk assessments to demonstrate how the products work chemically. The fear is that this work could make them uneconomical to continue to produce.