Hancock Watch Home

Click here for 2,4,5-T historical data and Yarram birth defects

Adelaide's Water supply contaminated by Atrazine and Hexazinone

More Information Here Including Details of Herbicides Detected By SA Water

Warren Reservoir at Mount Crawford and Forestry SA plantations, circa 2001.

Reservoir pollution first of its kind

by Colin James / The Advertiser 29 Jan 01

CONTAMINATION of a reservoir by herbicides from a nearby State Government-owned forest was the biggest incident of its kind in Australia, it has been revealed.

An SA Water investigation into the pollution throughout 1997 of the Warren Reservoir by chemicals used by Forestry SA could find no comparable incidents interstate or overseas.

The inquiry traced large quantities of Atrazine and Hexazinone in the reservoir to clay pellets dropped by helicopters on new pine plantations at the nearby Mt Crawford Forest.

The Advertiser on Wednesday reported how the Environment Protection Authority ordered Forestry SA in August, 1998, to stop using the herbicides after it received the results of the investigation.

SA Water staff involved with the inquiry have told The Advertiser there had been no other incident in Australia where similar quantities of herbicides had leached into reservoirs through creeks and streams.

Heavy rain washed dissolved quantities of the herbicides into the waterways, where the chemicals eventually ended up in the Warren Reservoir.

Diluted amounts then spread into the Barossa and Little Para reservoirs before being removed through expensive treatment processes at the Little Para water filtration plant.

"It was an unusual set of circumstances which, when we looked, we couldn't find had happened anywhere else in Australia or around the world," one SAWater manager said.

The water had to be treated with an expensive cleanser, powdered activated carbon, before it could be released for consumption in townships including Gawler and the Barossa Valley.

Attempts by SA Water to recover the cost of the treatment from Forestry SA were dropped after intervention by Government Enterprises Minister Michael Armitage.

Three government departments, SA Water, the Environment Protection Authority and the Department for Human Services, spent several months advising Dr Armitage on whether the contamination posed a risk to human safety and how the water could be treated.

Confidential briefings were provided to Dr Armitage, who agreed with departmental advisers that no public notification was required as levels of the herbicides were below guidelines set by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In a letter to Forestry SA general manager Ian Millard on August 3, 1998, then EPA director Rob Thomas said the authority supported national water management policies which recommended the "concentration of any pesticide in water supply systems should be below detection levels".

The EPA later issued a public warning after levels of Atrazine and Hexazinone in creeks and streams feeding into the reservoir system were found to be six times above the NHMRC guidelines.

SA Water Documents about Atrazine and Hexazinone Pollution (4 articles)


ISSUE: Detection of pesticides and action to stop contamination

Barossa Reservoir in foreground and South Para Reservoir in background - circa 2001

Source: SA Water.


*SA Water's routine water quality monitoring program has detected low levels of a pesticide (atrazine) in the Barossa Reservoir that supplies approximately ten per cent of metropolitan Adelaide and some country areas.

*The Department of Human Services (formerly the South Australian Health Commission) have been consulted on levels present in the Barossa Reservoir and consider that, although undesirable, the levels are below that which would constitute an immediate health concern. This viewpoint concurs with information from the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines which refer to helath-related guideline values for atrazine which are above the levels detected.

*The Department of Human Services has supported an investigation initiated by SA Water to determine the source of contamination and to implement remedial action to stop contamination. An ongoing investigation to identify the source(s) of contamination has determined that the atrazine did not originate from any SA Water activities within its catchment. SA Water subsequently requested DEHAA to investigate possible sources upstream which could affect runoff into the South Para and Warren Reservoirs which feed the Barossa Reservoir.

*A group representing SA Water, DEHAA, the Department of Human Services, DAIS - Forestry SA, Barossa Ranges Animal and Plant Control Board, Northern Adelaide and the Barossa Catchment Water Management Board has convened to facilitate this process. In this forum DAIS - Forestry SA has indicated the use of atrazine as a pre-emergent herbicide in conjunction with new pine forest plantations in the Mount Crawford Forest Reserve upstream of Warren Reservoir. A task force established from the above group will be continuing to meet in order to identify other possible users of pesticides in the catchment.

*In order to guarantee the safety of the water supply, SA Water has initiated powdered activated carbon treatment of the water produced by United Water at Barossa Water Treatment Plant. It is expected that this treatment will enable levels in the Barossa distribution system to be maintained below analytical detection limits. This will be verified by WTP product water analyses.

*Given the necessary extent of consultation on this issue, there is scope for the media to become involved. SA Water Corporate Communications are aware of this possibility. In addition, DEHAA has advised that it intends to inform the Minister for Environment and Heritage of the current situation.


ISSUE: Herbicide contamination in the Barossa water supply.

Source: SA Water.


*SA Water's routine water quality monitoring program has detected low levels (around 1.5u/L) of the herbicides atrazine and hexazinone in the Barossa Reservoir which supplies approximately ten percent of metropolitan Adelaide and some country areas (previous briefing note dated 16 July 1998 refers).

*An inter-agency team established by SA Water has been investigating the possible source of contamination. Agencies involved included EPA, DEHAA, Forestry SA and Water Catchment Management Board.


*Further monitoring undertaken by SA Water in South Para and Warren Reservoirs which are immediately upstream of Barossa Reservoir has revealed low level herbicide contamination in both. Testing in the streams feeding into Warren Reservoir has identified very high levels of herbicides in the streams in the Warren catchment.

*Whilst indiscriminate pesticide use within the catchment cannot be ruled out, the monitoring results suggest the principal source is spraying and aerial drops of a proprietary forest herbicide (containing atrazine and hexazinone) by Forestry SA in their pine plantations immediately upstream of Warren Reservoir. The herbicide is being used to control pre-emergent growth in new pine forest plantations in the Mount Crawford Forest Reserve area.

*Samples from streams running through the plantation areas (which then drain into Warren Reservoir) show herbicide levels around 150u/L, which are up to six times the level recommended for drinking water. These levels are also significant from an environmental viewpoint and the EPA is likely to take an active interest.

*Dosing of powdered activated carbon has been instigated at Barossa Water Treatment Plant in order to prevent the herbicides passing into supply. At present, herbicide concentrations in the treated water leaving the Barossa plant are below the limit of detection (currently 1.2u/L) against the guideline (0.5u/L) and health limits (20u/L) set within the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

*Provided the herbicide concentrations in the raw water entering the Barossa treatment plant remain below around 2-3u/L, existing powdered activated carbon dosing at the plant is expected to remain effective in controlling herbicide levels in treated water. Dosing costs are currently $30,000 per month.

*Should herbicide concentrations increase significantly then further temporary dosing facilities will need to be installed at the plant and dosing costs will also increase significantly.

*SA Water is forwarding correspondence to DEHAA, EPA and Forestry SA expressing concerns about the risk to public helath caused by the use of these herbicides in close proximity to watercourses feeding Adelaide's water supply system and requesting actions be taken to prevent further occurrences. Options for remediation have also been requested.


ISSUE: Further detection of Simazine in Anstey Hill System

Source: SA Water.


*SA Water's routine monitoring program detected a low concentration of the herbicide simazine in the raw water feed into Anstey Hill Water Treatment Plant in a sample collected on 3 August 1998.

*The result, reported on 5 August 1998 indicated that the raw water contained 0.9ug/L simazine. This compared to a maximum helath-related guideline value of 20ug/L in potable water recommended in the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

*There have been ongoing discussions with the Public and Environmental Health Service (Department of Human Services) on the issue of herbicides in raw water as results have become known.

*The result was discussed with EPA and Forestry SA during a meeting called to discuss Barossa water quality on 5 August 1998 and were subsequently referred again to the EPA on 10 August 1998.

*Detailed information was forwarded to the PEHS via email on 17 August 1998. A further update was provided on 31 August 1998.

*Given the low level detected, it was agreed that further monitoring would be undertaken in accordance with existing procedures to identify whether the herbicide contamination was persistent.

*Sampling on 13 August 1998 (reported 19 August 1998) showed NIL detected. A sample taken on 24 August 1998 (reported 25 August 1998) again showed a low level of simazine in the source water.

*Despite the very low levels of herbicide detected, SA Water initiated powdered activated carbon treatment in the Anstey Hill Water Treatment Plant on 9 September 1998 as a precautionary measure only to ensure all herbicide is effectively removed before water goes into supply. Confirmation sampling in product water will be undertaken on 11 September 1998.

*SA Water has again requested the EPA on 10 September 1998 to commence an investigation into possible sources, focussing particularly on forestry activities and/or local vineyards.

South Para reservoir - circa 2001


ISSUE: Herbicide contamination in the Barossa water supply.

Source: SA Water. Relevant Points

*Weed control undertaken by Forestry SA on new pine plantations within the Warren catchment have been linked with the detection of the herbicides atrazine and hexazinone in the Barossa, South Para and Warren Reservoirs.

*Following investigations by SA Water and EPA, Forestry SA was directed by the EPA to cease the use of all herbicides in all of the proclaimed water protection areas within the Mt Lofty Ranges until such time as an appropriate management plan is developed by Forestry SA. The management plan seeks to avoid herbicides entering water bodies from forestry areas.

*As part of this directive, Forestry SA has begun to monitor herbicide levels in streams both above and below their new plantation areas within the Warren catchment. Work has also commenced on development of the management plan.

*SA Water is continuing to monitor water quality within the reservoirs. Recent results from SA Water's monitoring show a gradual decline in herbicide levels at the outlet of Barossa Reservoir feeding into the Barossa Water Treatment Plant (1.6ug/L atrazine on 24 August).

*Herbicide levels in Warren Reservoir have increased slightly as a result of further inflow from contaminated streams (5.3ug/L atrazine on 17 August).

*Water transfers from the Mannum-Adelaide pipeline into Warren Reservoir have been stopped in order to minimise spillage of water from Warren into South Para and Barossa Reservoirs. This will reduce the chance of contaminated water from Warren Reservoir increasing concentrations in the downstream reservoirs. South Para Reservoir is being well supplemented with filtered water from Swan Reach-Stockwell pipeline.

*SA Water continues to dose powdered activated carbon (20mg/L) into the raw water entering the Barossa WTP in order to ensure that no herbicides reach customers. Product water analyses have demonstrated effective removal.

South Para and Warren reservoirs - note plantations - circa 2001


(The Advertiser September 17, 1998 p3)

By Environmental Reporter - Bronwyn Hurrell

Three reservoirs north-east of Adelaide had been contaminated for the past year by the herbicide Atrazine, the Environment Protection Authority revealed yesterday.

And leaching of run-off from Forestry SA's Mt Crawford pine plantation has been blamed for the pollution.

It is the third scare involving the State's reservoirs in as many weeks.

The State Government last night formed a high level committee to examine water catchment management strategies and threats as a result of the incidents. The committee will hold its first meeting today.

Atrazine was detected by SA Water at Barossa Reservoir last September, but it was only made public through a press release issues after 11pm on Tuesday.

The notification followed an EPA investigation which found the contamination had travelled down creek beds from the SA Forestry plantation to the Warren, South Para and Barossa Reservoirs.

The State Opposition has called for a public audit of the water quality of all State reservoirs and why the detection was not revealed.

Investigators found levels of contamination on the reservoirs of two micrograms per litre - well below the 20-microgram drinking quality guideline.

But the surrounding catchment has recorded samples up to three times the safe level and the water in the catchment has been declared unsafe for drinking. Forestry SA, which uses the chemical each May when it plants pines at Mt Crawford, has now been ordered to stop using the herbicide until a management plan has been put in place.

The Atrazine contamination follows the shutdown of Hope Valley Reservoir after the parasite giardia was discovered - and the discovery of cryptosporadium in Myponga Reservoir on August 31. EPA evaluation branch manager said because Atrazine was a potent herbicide with a long life, the waterway would be contaminated for another year.

He said the reason the EPA did not become involved earlier was because SA Water had decided the low levels detected in Barossa Reservoir were not a health risk.

Mr McLennan said the 'trigger' for the public warning was a fear that campers who went into the forest area might be taking water from the catchment to which contamination was traced.

"I think the incident certainly heightened people's concerns," Mr McLennan said.

The EPA says signs will be erected in SA Forestry reserves indicating that the water there is not safe for use.

The Opposition Leader, Mr Rann yesterday wrote to the Premier, Mr Olsen, demanding he take personal action over the water quality issue.

The action of Atrazine

Atrazine is a herbicide which provides knockdown and residual action to control emerging weeds.

It also promotes tree growth, which is why its almost exclusive use in Australia is in forestry.

Atrazine is usually applied by tractor or four-wheel-drive boomspray. It is a mobile chemical with the potential to contaminate water, but Australian aquatic environments are generally below the threshold for affecting the ecosystem. Higher levels in groundwater have been detected occasionally and have usually arisen from accidents or improper handling practices.

The National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals has taken steps to reduce aquatic contamination by restricting maximum annual application rates and withdrawing uses with high contamination potential...


The Advertiser September 18, 1998

By Environment Reporter Bronwyn Hurrell

The Environment Minister, Mrs Kotz, did not read an official briefing on herbicide contamination in a key Adelaide reservoir for at least two weeks, her office has revealed.

The Environment Protection Agency briefing detailed how a powerful herbicide, Atrazine, had been detected in the Barossa reservoir on various occassions since last September.

The briefing paper was given to Mrs Kotz on July 22 - 13 days before she addressed State Parliament on efforts to preserve the State's water quality. Her speech made no mention of any problems in Adelaide's reservoirs.

A spokeswoman last night said that Mrs Kotz did not read the Barossa reservoir briefing before she addressed Parliament, because she was "away in the country".

Mrs Kotz also "did not get to that briefing" because "it was a parliamentary sitting week".

The spokeswoman last night could not say when Mrs Kotz eventually had read the briefing.

The revelation came after inquiries by The Advertiser yesterday revealed another Adelaide Hills reservoir had been contaminated by two separate herbicides during the past nine months.

However, like the recent discovery of the parasite, giardia, at the Hope Valley reservoir, the problem at the Millbrook reservoir was not publicised because authorities did not consider it threatened public health. . .

At a press conference after yesterday's meeting, Mrs Kotz denied the Hope Valley and Barossa reservoir incidents had been embarrassing for the Government.

"How can anyone be embarrassed over a situation where there is still no public health risk?" she said.

Mrs Kotz's comments were followed eight hours later by confirmation she had received the Barossa reservoir herbicide briefing on July 22 - but did not read it before addressing Parliament on August 4.

The contamination was not publicly revealed until late on Tuesday night.

The Environment Protection Agency, released a statement in the wake of the outcry over the Government's handling of the Hope Valley reservoir giardia outbreak.

Further inquiries yesterday by The Advertiser revealed the Millbrook reservoir, near Cudlee Creek, north-east of Adelaide, tested positive for Atrazine in January while, a second herbicide, Simazine, was detected early last month.

The Advertiser also confirmed yesterday that the Government Enterprises Minister, Dr Armitage, recieved briefings from SA Water about the Barossa reservoir on July 16, July 29, September 10 and September 11.

Mrs Kotz received a separate briefing about the Millbrook reservoir incident on September 11.

The Advertiser yesterday sent detailed questions to both ministers on why public statements were not issued on the herbicide problems before this week.

Their spokespeople said last night they required more time to prepare their answers. Mrs Kotz was asked why she had not mentioned the herbicide issue when she made her ministerial statement to the House of Assembly on August 4.

During the speech, she said the Sydney water crisis was "a pointed reminder to South Australia of the need for vigilance in protecting and monitoring the water supplies which service this State".

"Ensuring a clean water supply through the protection of our water catchments is the responsibility of every South Australian," she said.

Mrs Kotz and Dr Armitage were not available last night for further comment.


The Advertiser January 10, 2001.

By Colin James

FORESTRY SA has stopped using a herbicide linked overseas to cancer, says Government Enterprises Minister Michael Armitage.

The department ceased treating new pine plantations with Atrazine in May, 1998, Dr Armitage said.

"It (herbicide contamination in reservoirs) is not an issue," he said.

"They (Forestry SA) don't use any herbicides in SA Water reservoirs any more."

Since the early 1970s, Forestry SA had used helicopters to bomb new pine plantings around reservoirs with herbicides containing Atrazine, named last year by the United States Environment Protection Agency as a potential carcinogen.

The EPA issused the warning after tests on rats showed Atrazine caused breast, testicular and ovarian cancers.

Internationally, studies have shown herbicides leach into reservoirs from nearby forests and accumulate in sediment. While the levels of herbicides in reservoirs have never exceeded official guidelines, the concentrations in sediment require ongoing monitoring and treatment.

The cost of this treatment has been the subject of high-level debate between Forestry SA and SA Water.

SA Water spent an estimated $700,000 in 1998 treating contaminated water with an expensive chemical before it was released for drinking supplies. The corporation wanted to sue Forestry SA to recover the cost, but was advised it would have difficulty isolating the source of the herbicides.

Dr Armitage confirmed Crown Law advice had been sought about herbicide use by Forestry SA. The issue is being discussed between SA Water and Forestry SA.

Dr Armitage said he was optimistic it would be resolved without the need for litigation.

"If a (satisfactory) conclusion cannot be reached there are procedures which could be taken," he said.


The Advertiser 24 January 2001.

By Colin James

A STATE GOVERNMENT department was ordered to stop using potentially carcinogenic herbicides after its operations contaminated drinking water supplies.

The Environment Protection Authority issued the edict to Forestry SA in August 1998, after herbicides were traced to new pine plantations near the Barossa Valley.

Former EPA executive director Rob Thomas wrote to Forestry SA manager Ian Millard on August 3, 1998, to order his department to stop using herbicides containing the agents Atrazine and Hexazinone. Mr Thomas said SA Water had told the EPA that Atrazine had been found in the Warren Reservoir "continuously since September, 1997".

Normal water-filtration processes had "not been able to remove" the chemical from the "water supply system" - necessitating the use of an expensive cleanser, powdered activated carbon.

Mr Thomas said SA Water investigations had found:

WATER in the South Para and Warren Reservoirs contained Atrazine at similar concentrations to that found in the Barossa Reservoir at levels within national safety guidelines.

NO Atrazine was found in creeks flowing into reservoirs from grazed areas.

CONCENTRATIONS in creeks immediately downstream of new forest plantations were up to six times higher than safety guidelines allowed

HEXAZINONE had been found with every water sample containing Atrazine.

Mr Thomas said the results - and information on the "location, timing, rate and method of Atrazine application to new forestry plantations near Warren Reservoir" - had identified Forestry SA as the source of the contamination.

Mr Thomas used Section 25 of the Environment Protection Act (1993) to order Forestry SA "to cease the use of Atrazine and other herbicides in all proclaimed water protection areas within the Mt Lofty Ranges".

His letter was followed in May, 1999, by an SA Water briefing to Government Enterprises Minister Michael Armitage in which a senior manager stated herbicides detected in the Barossa Valley reservoir system had been traced to Forestry SA.

Former bulk water division manager Matthew Giesemann also told Dr Armitage overseas research had determined that Atrazine and Hexazinone were carcinogenic.

The Advertiser earlier this month reported that Dr Armitage wrote back to Mr Giesemann asking him to rewrite the briefing as the claims about Forestry SA and the cancer risks of the herbicides were unsubstantiated.

Dr Armitage told Mr Giesemann the "causal link between run-off from forestry areas and levels of Atrazine and Hexazinone in the Warren Reservoir had not been adequately proven."

Copters made the drop

Atrazine was regularly dropped by helicopter near most of the state's reservoirs to control weeds in new forestry plantations.

In late 1997, large quantities leached into the Warren Reservoir after heavy rain dissolved clay pellets coated with the chemical.

One of the world's most commonly-used herbicides, its use was officially restricted last year after the US Environment Protection Authority found it was "likely" to cause cancer.

A five-year review found Atrazine could cause a range of harmful effects, from reproductive deformities to cancer. Atrazine has contaminated tap water throughout the US and is banned in several European countries.

State Water Monitoring Coordinating Sub-committee Nov 2000

p11 Pesticides

Contamination of the Warren catchment and the Warren, South Para and Barossa Reservoirs by atrazine and hexazinone had been featured in media reports in 1998. Through 1999 and 2000 the concentrations of the two pesticides decreased gradually in the reservoirs. Although activated carbon was used at the Barossa Water Treatment Plant to remove the pesticides low concentrations were detected in some samples.

By September 1999 concentrations at the inlet to the Barossa Water Treatment Plant were consistently below 1.6ug/L and the use of activated carbon was discontinued. The health related guideline value for atrazine was 20ug/L and for hexazinone is 300ug/L. In the latest samples collected in mid August 2000 the concentrations were below detection limits at most most locations and including the inlet and outlet of the Barossa Water Treatment Plant.

There were occasional detections of pesticides throughout the period. The most common were of:

* simazine which was detected in four samples from Gumeracha Weir and in single samples from Little Para River and Reservoir, Torrens Gorge Weir and Tod Reservoir; and

*hexazinone which was detected in single samples from Little Para River and the River Murray at Murray Bridge, Mannum, Lock 9 and Loxton.

* Atrazine was detected in one samples of product water from the Hope Valley Water Treatment Plant, endosulfan sulfate in one sample from Gumeracha Weir and dieldrin which is no longer registered for use was detected in one sample from Mt Bold Reservoir.

The detection of atrazine and hexazinone in product water from the Barossa Treatment Plant, atrazine, in product water from the Hope Valley Treatment Plant (0.5ug/L), dieldrin in Mt Bold Reservoir (0.07ug/L) and the concentrations of hexazinone detected in the Little Para River (5.9ug/L) and the River Murray at Mannum (2.5ug/L) and Lock 9 (2.1ug/L) represented Type 1 incidents. However, the concentrations detected were well below the health related guideline values (atrazine 20ug/L; dieldrin 0.3ug/L; hexazinone 300ug/L) and DHS considered in each case that there was no risks to human health. Except for the results from the Barossa Treatment Plant the pesticide detections were gnerally isolated samples.

The remaining detections represented Type 2 incidents.

***PRESS RELEASE 3/7/01***


Friends of the Earth Melbourne today warned that current logging by an American based logging company, could have potential health risks for over 50,000 people in the State's south west. Forest Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Anthony Amis said "On Sunday I witnessed some very shoddy logging occurring in the Webster Hill Pine Plantation located in the Otway Ranges. This plantation is within the Gellibrand River catchment which supplies water for up to 50,000 residents in the states south west, including Warrnambool, Camperdown, Cobden, Lismore, Derrinallum, Terang, South Purrumbete, Devil's Gully, Noorat, Glenormiston, Simpson, Chocolyn, Gnotuk and Boorcan".

At one particular site, on a tributary of Asplin Creek which in turn runs into the Gellibrand River, buffer zones were almost non-existent and soil erosion from poorly maintained roads was entering the waterways. It would appear that Hancock are more concerned about their profits than the well being of people, who rely on this catchment for clean drinking water" said Mr Amis.

Mr Amis added, "It appeared that care was not taken in this particular part of the plantation, which was located on the eastern side of Carmen Track, possibly on Gagin Track. There was inappropriate roading, massive soil disturbance and a lack of culverts of drains which protect creeks and streams from water pollution associated with sediment and herbicide use".

"In November 1998, Hancock Victorian Plantations purchased the assets of the Victorian Plantation Corporation for over $A500 million. The purchase entitled Hancock to log over 105,000 hectares of mostly pine plantations throughout the state over a 99 year licence.

"Since 1998 Hancock has been logging at a ferocious rate across the state, logging vast areas of pine plantations. Once logged the areas are then treated with herbicides. This is clearly a very worrying method of logging, especially when many of the plantations are located upstream of domestic water catchments throughout the state" said Mr Amis. Our research indicates that possibly 100 towns throughout Victoria are located downstream of Hancock plantations. What onus is on the company to protect the health interests of people relying on this drinking water?" Mr Amis. "Is the water being tested for herbicide contamination downstream from the plantations?"

"Adelaide's drinking water was recently contaminated by the herbicides Atrazine and Hexazinone which were sprayed into surrounding water catchments by Forestry South Australia. This was also the case for the small Tasmanian town of Lorinna which in 1994 had their water catchment sprayed with Atrazine by Forestry Tasmania. Atrazine has been linked with non-hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of cancer. Friends of the Earth has real concerns that similar problems could be occuring throughout Victoria. Responsibility for monitoring Hancock in the Otways has fallen on the Colac-Otway Shire. I raised these concerns twice with the council earlier this year. They have only responded to the first of my letters and didn't even answer the second letter. There are many other plantation companies operating in the Gellibrand Catchment. The council has refused my request earlier this year to supply Friends of the Earth with information pertaining to the herbicides used by these plantation companies. We have been forced to create our own website to pass this information onto the public" concluded Mr Amis.

STANLEY VELPAR INCIDENT November 1985 - March 1986.

Spraying on the Stanley Plateau carried out by DCFL on pine plantations

Orchards were damaged in this incident by the Overdrift of Velpar. Chlorotic spotting was evident on some fruit trees with the trees suffering the worst possibly being those suffering moisture stress through lack of irrigation. By January at least 24 growers from the Stanley area were effected. The damage was first reported in 26 November. Between 2 and 31 December,1985, a total of 30 written complaints were received in Central Registry. All complainants reported the occurrence of leaf spotting on trees, mainly chestnuts, walnuts, cherries, apples (pears) and on a variety of ornamental species, following the aerial spraying of a nearby pine plantation by the Forest Commission.

Vowell Air Services (Helicopters) Pty Ltd of Stuart Road, Tyabb, apparently did the spraying. The application was Velpar (Hexazinone) applied at a rate of 2kg of active ingredient per hectare mixed with 20 litres of Ulvapron and 32 litres of water. Symptoms of Velpar damage were also observed on roadside reserves and in unsprayed forest areas. Possibly a cloud of minute particles of spray material was picked up during the aerial spraying and carried from the target area by a current of wind which then circulated in a generally south west direction depositing several amounts of spray material over and onto nearby properties.

December 10, 1985: The Ovens and Murray Advertiser ‘Premier called on to intervene on aerial spraying of pine trees’. Orchardists and Beechworth Shire Council wanted the ban in the Stanley area until studies had been completed into the spraying problems.

January 21, 1986: The Ovens and Murray Advertiser ‘Growers call for spraying to stop’. A meeting packed with orchardists at Stanley last Tuesday unanimously called on the CFL Minister, Ms Kirner, to stop aerial spraying in the vicinity of the Stanley Plateau. Orchardists were concerned to see whether there would be any short or long term effects on the production of fruit. Also concerns that sprays had fallen on roofs and then entered water supplies.

February 11, 1986: The Ovens and Murray Advertiser ‘Spraying at Stanley now Banned says Kirner’. ‘The Minister for CFL has introduced a ban on all aerial spraying of pine plantations in the Stanley area . . . The decision follows an urgent call by Stanley orchardists in the middle of January for a ban on the spraying. Ms Kirner said CFL had agreed to cease all spraying pending a investigation into the spotting of fruit and other tree foliage which appeared late in November.



In late 1993, two pine plantations, owned by the Victorian Plantation Corporation, situated near the City of Ballarat in Central Victoria were sprayed with Hexazinone and Ulvapron. Creswick nursery staff were the first people alerted to something going wrong with this spraying operation a week or two after the spraying, when plants in their nursery started to die. The City of Ballarat first found spotting of trees in Ballarat a month after the spraying. The following timeline is a rough description of some of the events that followed.

*Please note in 1986 the Department of Conservation and Forests issued an moratorium that they would not use fixed wing aircraft for aerial spraying after spraying problems with Hexazinone in the Stanley Region.



22 October: Victorian Plantations Corporation (VPC) writes to Agricultural and Domestic Chemicals Review Committee (ADCRC) requesting approval for aerial spraying of Velpar L (hexazinone preparation) on pines in Creswick (LEGL 93-39/1) and Shepherds Flat (Ballarat) (LEGL 93-32) pine plantations in November/December in accordance with Code of Practice.

28 October: ADCRC approves spraying.

2 November: VPC distributes letter to residents between Creswick East and Springmount informing them amongst other things that;

". . . Aerial application will commence in early November, 1993 and should be completed in one day, depending on weather.

The operation has been approved by the Agricultural and Domestic Chemicals Review Committee and will be conducted in accordance with the Committees' Code of Practice.

Strict controls will be used for this operation.

1. An aircraft specially rigged for this job will be used to ensure accurate delivery of herbicide onto the target zone.

2. Buffer zones will be left along streams and other sensitive areas.

3. Spraying will take place only when weather conditions are such as will avoid any drift of herbicide outside the target area." . . .

4 November: VPC sends almost identical letter (as above) to Shire of Creswick.

15 November: Field Air* (Ballarat) sprays 70 hectares of the Shepherds Flat pine plantation (located about 4km south east of the village of Durham Lead) with Velpar L (wind SE, 12 knots). Three/Four? spraying flights were necessary. Approximately 912 litres of Velpar (Hexazinone), 1520 litres of Ulvapron and 2128 litres of water were sprayed. (*Field Air act as agents for Air Tractor Australia - owned by Air Tractor (Olney, Texas)).

16 November: Field Air (Benalla) sprays 30 hectares in one aircraft trip at Creswick (plantation known as Sawpit Gully) with Velpar L (wind NE, 4 knots). VPC advises DCNR (Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) of aerial spraying near Creswick nursery that day. Nursery staff observe plane flying low over nursery. DCNR staff ask what is being sprayed. VPC advises it is Velpar L. - 12 litres of Velpar, 20 litres of Ulvapron (an anti-evaporant petroleum based compound) and 28 litres of water, total 60 litres per hectare. Droplet size was 250-300 microns (a relatively large droplet size which are normally 100 microns). Aircraft in question had an 1800 litre tank. Height of the aircraft was 1 to 2 metres above canopy - 3 metres above the ground.

End November/early December: DCNR Creswick nursery staff observe yellow blotching on nursery stock and amenity plants at nursery. Damaged tubestock thrown out.

15 December: DCNR nursery staff sample foliage and send to DAV (Department of Agriculture) for testing.

20 December: City of Ballarat first notices spotting in Ballarat.

30 December: DAV analysis indicates no evidence of disease. Report notes damage most likely caused by environmental conditions or spray drift. Reported to DCNR South West Catchment and Land Protection Management (CALM) manager, who discusses report with VPC.


6 January: DCNR/VPC inspect damaged nursery stock.

7-10 January: DCNR photographs damage. DCNR describes damage to DAV and Du Pont staff who say description could be consistent with Velpar L spray drift.

18 January: DCNR shows photographs of Creswick nursery damage to MacSpread, Ballarat, supplier of Velpar L. MacSpread advises damage could be consistent with aerial spraying.

20 January: VCAH (Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture) visits Creswick nursery.

27 January: City of Ballarat samples foliage at Ballarat for biological testing.

3 February: Institute of Horticultural Development (DAV) inspects spotting at Ballarat.

9 February: Shire of Ballarat notifies EPA of spotting.

10 February: SCL (State Chemistry Laboratories) confirms hexazinone in DCNR Creswick nursery samples. SCL reports to DCNR that hexazinone has been found in nursery stock foliage. EPA commences investigation.

11 February: Director of DCNR Forest Service, sends letter to Managing Director of VPC, seeking compensation for damage to the Creswick Nursery stock and amenity planting. Loss of stock was later valued at about $70,000.

12 February: DCNR closes Creswick nursery to public.

15 February: EPA confirm that spotting of leaves found as far west as Linton (about 24km south west of Ballarat) and as far north as Clunes (about 27km north of Ballarat).

16 February: DAV rules out biological causes for damage in Ballarat samples.

18 February: First interdepartmental/local government meeting (EPA, DAV, DCNR, City of Ballarat, Shire of Ballarat, Shire of Buninyong). Leaf Chlorosis Co-ordination Committee formed.

21 Februray: DHCS (Department of Health and Community Services) samples drinking water. SCL confirms hexazinone in Ballarat samples.

22 February: First EPA media release. EPA begins Creswick inspections.

23 February: Newspaper and TV coverage of issue. EPA begins sampling throughout affected area. DHCS provides drinking water sample results - hexazinone not detected. Second EPA media release.

24 February: Second interdepartmental/local government meeting. VPC requests EPA to withdraw suggestion that aerial spraying caused problem.

26 February: Peak level of public enquiries.

28 February: EPA begins meetings with external experts (Spraysearch, Daratech, Du Pont, DCNR, University of Ballarat).

March 1994: Spraysearch (a joint venture between the DofA and Daratech Pty Ltd (the Department's commercial arm) writes a report entitled; SPRAY DRIFT COMPLAINT INVESTIGATION OF FIELD AIR (BALLARAT) Pty. Ltd. Quotes from the report incude;

p1 "The complaint specifically involves allegations of spray drift from the aerial application of the herbicide Hexazinone (trade name Velpar L). Approximately 76 ha of young Pinus Radiata plantation at Durham Lead (approximately 20 km south of Ballarat) were sprayed on the 15th November 1993. In January 1994, the leaves of species of Elm tree (and subsequently other deciduous species such as Flowering Cherry, Rose, Liquidambar, Pin Oak and Maple, to name a few) began exhibiting extensive chlorotic spotting. Experts from the Institute of Horticultural Development at Knoxfield discounted any possible disease or pathogen effects, and leaf samples analysed by the State Chemistry Laboratory (SCL) confirmed Hexazinone residues. The extent of the effects have yet to be determined, however effected trees can apparently be found in a broad swathe from Bunninyong in the South to Clunes in the North, a distance of approximately 50km."

p2 "A copy of the Job Sheet (Field Air Work Order) was produced. Copies of the relevant maps showing flight lines and the pine plantation detail and area sprayed was also produced. The job sheet and maps reveal:

*The client was the Victorian Plantations Corporation (VPC).
*The chemical rates were: Velpar 12 litres/ha
Ulvapron 20 litres/ha
Water 28 litres/ha
TOTAL 60 litres/ha

However a Field Air Work Order given to Reg Hill states the chemical rates were:
Velpar 12 litres/ha
Ulvapron 15 litres/ha"

1 March: EPA begins Shepherds Flat inspections. ALP candidate calls for independent enquiry into leaf spotting.

2 March: EPA begins visual survey to determine extent of affected area.

3 March: Third interdepartmental/local government meeting results in requests to DAV that Velpar L use be suspended pending outcome of investigation.

8 March: EPA formally requests report on DAV investigation of spotting under Aerial Spraying Control Act.

9 March: State Opposition calls for independent enquiry into spraydrift in Ballarat.

5 April: EPA sends letter to Chairman and Board of Directors of Victorian Plantation Corporation seeking the name of a person authorised to speak on its behalf.

13 April: EPA receives letter indicating that Kevin White was authorised to speak to the EPA.

17 June: Victorian Plantation Corporation served notice pursuant to Section 55(3)(D) of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

12 July: Victorian Plantation Corporation served notice pursuant to Section 55(3) of the Environment Protection Act 1970.


19 January: Field Air plead guilty at the Geelong Magistrates Court and were convicted and fined $5000 in relation to each incident plus $20,000 costs.

17 March: Geelong Magistrates Court

Counsel for VPC advised Mr Von Einem Magistrate, as follows:

(a) VPC did not intend to pursue its proposed objections to the further and better particulars of the charges;

(b) He had received instructions that VPC would be pleading guilty to the two charges of pollution, subject to suitable prosecution summary being agreed between the parties. He indicated that the matter was therefore resolved, "unless the sky fell in".

Spraysearch report - August 1994;

The Aerial Application of Velpar L herbicide to a Radiata Pine plantation at Sawpit Gully, Creswick, Victoria. A report on the performance of the application equipment and use of spray cloud modelling to determine the possibility of off-target drift;

p5 "The aircraft was loaded at the Field Air base at Ballarat airport and then flew to the site. The mixing and loading of the product was carried out in the open on the normal loading/washdown area. The loading equipment consists of a main water supply, a steel mixing tank (approx 200L capacity), recirculating and delivery pump and associated valves and supply hoses. Whilst somewhat basic in design and construction the equipment appeared to fulfill its purpose . . . The covered mixing tank has an internal agitation bar, allowing thorough mixing prior to pumping to the aircraft". ..

p5 ". . . The DCNR nursery in question was located on the southern side of this plantation, approximately 350m from the boundary of the site." . . .

p9 "From an operational point of view the site would be typical of many areas of forestry plantation that are aerially sprayed, offering principally straight, parallel flight-lines along the site. The mature plantation would require that the aircraft drop down and pull up at either end, in order to safely clear the trees. This would be especially important at the western end, where the ground itself was sloping away. Normal practice would be to follow the contours as closely as possible, in order to maintain a uniform spraying height" . . .

p10 (b) Equipment Selection

"Field Air Pty Ltd selected to use the fixed-wing Airtractor 502 fitted with a hydraulic boom onto which were mounted 10 Micronair AU 5000-2 rotary atomiser units. This type of aircraft is widely used for forestry spraying in Australia. The Micronair AU5000-2 is an atomiser widely used for low volume aerial spraying of agrochemicals, and is routinely used in aerial spraying of forests".

p11 "One of its perceived attributes is that it produces a relatively narrow droplet distribution with fewer fine droplets, compared to many hydraulic pressure nozzles. It consists of a central spindle, through which the spray liquid is supplied to a surrounding perforated sleeve, passing through the main body of the atomiser. Three adjustable pitch blades are mounted on the body, together with a cylindrical wire mesh cage - that spins with the body and the blades. In the use the spray liquid is thrown from the inner sleeve onto the inner surface of the rotating mesh cage and then off the cage into the high velocity air steam from the aircraft. It is most probable that the liquid is also sheared directly off the cage surface by the air stream.

The droplet size distribution can be varied by altering the rotation speed of the atomiser, for a given air speed, by adjusting the pitch of the blades on the unit".


(a) Spray Liquid Composition

The original contract specified that the spray liquid would have the following composition:

*Velpar L 12L/ha
*Ulvapron Oil 20L/ha
*Water 28L/ha

However it is understood from discussion with Field Air Pty Ltd that the composition was changed for operational reasons following the previous day's spraying at Durham Lead, (the other part of the contract), to the following:

*Velpar L 12L/ha
*Ulvapron Oil 15L/ha
*Water 33L/ha

No mixing records were made available to SpraySearch to validate the above; it is presumed that the VPC controller's records document the actual useage, as required by Section 3.11 of the contract. The latter composition has been used throughout this report . . .

The reason for the inclusion of the large quantity of Ulvapron Oil is unclear and is not defined in the contract. It is presumed that it was included to reduce evaporation and/or to improve biological efficacy. The use of an oil additive is not included on the product label guidelines. Ulvapron is an hydrocarbon oil/emulsifier blend that is marketed as an application aid. The only reference to an adjuvant in the guidelines relates to the inclusion of a non-ionic surfactant/ wetting agent to improve foliar wetting. However the guidelines state that a surfacant should not be used if the spray liquid is to be applied over the top of Pinus Radiata trees - as was the case for this operation.

(b). Spray liquid mixing and loading.

No records of the mixing and loading were made available, however the following procedure was verbally supplied by Field Air Pty Ltd:

*A portion of the water was pumped into the aircraft hopper.
*The Velpar L and a further quantity of the water were mixed in the mixing tank on the ground and then pumped into the aircraft hopper.
*The Ulvapron Oil was emulsified into a further quantity of the water in the mixing tank on the ground and then pumped into the aircraft hopper.
*The balance of the water was pumped into the aircraft hopper.

The design of the hopper is such that the liquid entry point is at the bottom, so there would have been thorough mixing of the components during the filling of the hopper. It was reported that the hopper contents were not circulated during transit to the site, but prior to spraying the pump was turned on and the hopper contents continuously mixed.

(c). Application to the site.

It is understood that the spraying was carried out between 09.00 and 13.00 hrs on the 16th November 1993. SpraySearch has not had access to the controller's records of the operational parameters and conditions at the time of spraying and so is unable to comment on the compliance of the operation to the contract specifications in sections 4.4 and 5. Information from Field Air Pty Ltd confirmed that the flying height was nominally 3-5m as far as was practical and safe. . . Apart from the initial passes to spray the boundaries of the block, the majority was sprayed with a series of lengthwise swaths. It is noted that the swath width was given as 12m by Field Air Pty Ltd, whilst the contract states that an effective swath width of 15-18m would be expected unless otherwise determined and set by the Controller.


The mechanics of airborne spray drift are very complex and depend on a large number of factors. The droplet size distribution of the spray emitted from the atomiser is obviously an important factor because, together with the evaporation characteristics and environmental conditions, it will largely determine the proportion of the spray cloud that may remain airborne and become a drift problem. . . There is no single accepted value of droplet size below which drift becomes a problem, because it is an intercative issue - for example a strong wind will be able to carry larger droplets off-target than a slight wind.

The contract specified an ... "even distribution of droplets ranging in size from 250-350 microns", unless otherwise agreed by the Controller . . . This is an ambiguous statement because of the ways in which it could be interpreted. Strictly interpreted it means that no droplets should be smaller than 250 microns or larger than 350 microns, and that the population should be evenly distributed between those limits.

In a commercial operation this is probably impossible to achieve. The more probable interpretation, and that made by Field Air Pty Ltd, and presumably accepted by the Controller, would be that the median size should be within that range.

In order to give a more technical base to this aspect if the investigation SpraySearch were contracted to conduct a series of droplet size determinations in its advanced Atomisation Facility at Werribee.


In the context of the expected behaviour for the conditions selected and used by Field Air Pty Ltd, the following conclusions can be made:

(1) The anticipated Volume Median Diameter of 250 - 350 microns has been successfully achieved, with a mean value for the two replicates of 300 microns.

(2) With regard to the potential for off-target drift, approximately 10% by volume of the emitted spray cloud was in droplets below 105 microns, 3.3% below 50 microns, and 1.0% below 25 microns.

(3) Approximately 20% of the emitted spray was in droplets with a diameter between 256-344 microns.

(4) The accidental mis-setting of the Micronair blade angle, resulting in an over-revving to 3000rpm, would have had minimal effect on the size distribution of the emitted spray cloud.

(5) The omission of the high level of Ulvapron Oil would have resulted in a significantly coarser emitted spray cloud.

(6) The operational conditions selected by Field Air Pty Ltd, based on information available to them, successfully met the reasonable interpretation of the contract's droplet size requirements.


In the letter from *****, dated 13th April 1994, the following three questions were asked:
(1) Could spray drift from the sprayed area, (Sawpit Gully), have been deposited on the affected trees?
(2) Is spraydrift a likely cause of the spotting?
(3) If it is drift, was it forseeable and could it have been avoided?

In relation to question (1), the model as used has indicated that it would be possible for spray drift to be deposited at the nursery.

In relation to question (2), the model as used has indicated that a dose of approximately 0.03 L/ha would have been deposited on the ground at the nursery. This would probably have been mostly composed of droplets with a diameter of the order of 50 microns. Whether the doseage of spray liquid, in that droplet size range, could have caused the observed spotting and damage is beyond the remit of this investigation.

In relation to question (3), this investigation indicates that the operation was carried out by Field Air Pty Ltd was satisfactory; the equipment used was typical of that used for aerial forestry spraying in Australia, there were no apparent problems and the emitted spray cloud was of the droplet size distribution anticipated and required by the contract. As to whether the problem was foreseeable and could have been avoided, there are a large number of local factors that could have influenced the outcome of the operation at the time that have not been investigated here, and it is therefore considered impossible to answer this question.

University of Ballarat Report - November 1994
Survey of Leaf Chlorosis Syndrome at Creswick, Victoria

p13 Conclusions

Surveys of vegetation in and around Creswick township were undertaken in early 1994 following the development of yellow spotting on leaves (leaf chlorosis). Fifty trees were scored for leaf chlorosis including 14 mature elm (Ulmus spp.) trees and 36 eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus spp.), the latter ranging in size from small understorey to mature forest trees. Twenty of the fifty trees surveyed were affected by leaf chlorosis. Among the surveyed trees, those most severely affected by leaf chlorosis were located along Sawpit Road near the DCNR Nursery. Trees with intermediate leaf chlorosis (Categories 1 to 3) occurred within an area 2 to 3 km south of the DCNR Nursery, to the north, east and south of St Georges Lake. Trees more than one kilometre north and north-west of the DCNR Nursery were not affected by leaf chlorosis.

Leaf chlorosis decreases in intensity with increasing distance southwards from Sawpit Gully Pine Plantation. Analysis of new growth suggests that the causal event occurred in late 1993 or early 1994. Affected vegetation appears to be altered both physically and physiologically. The results if the surveys show that the distribution of the leaf chlorosis syndrome in the Creswick study area is non-random, and that the most severely affected trees are adjacent to the Sawpit Gully Pine Plantation. The results of the surveys are consistent with the theory that the causal agent or agents were distributed aerially from a point source of contamination and were subsequently spread by prevailing winds.

Regional Health Survey

Regional Health Survey by Reark Research Pty Ltd commissioned by the Department of Health and Community Services in late April 1994 - primary purpose of the survey was to determine whether persons living in certain areas within and surrounding Ballarat had suffered any ill health as a consequence of the herbicide hexazinone in the environment of Ballarat.

pi Telephone survey conducted in May 1994 . . . A total of 558 respondents were interviewed . 'While survey findings confirmed age-related variations in the prevalence of illnesses, the survey results did not confirm the expected higher prevalence of illnesses within the Ballarat population, nor the expected higher levels of stress and anxiety within the Ballarat and Daylesford populations. However, in comparison to Daylesford/Bendigo respondents, Ballarat respondents did report significantly higher levels of specific symptoms, such as upset stomach or diarrhoea, irritated throat or dry cough, and cold symptoms. . .

p1 . . . Hexazinone is considered to have only mildly acute toxic effects on humans, notably eye irritation, as reported from occupational exposures. Animal toxicity testing has confirmed this low toxicity. However, the survey design proposed to account for the widest range of possible effects on the exposed population. Also, it could not be assumed that any effect would have been immediately evident as acute illness, as subsequent effects may follow some months later when discharged herbicide that might have settled on a dwelling's roof was flushed off by rain into tank water storage and later consumed.

p11 . . . The prevalence of three specific symptoms was significantly higher amongst Ballarat respondents than Daylesford/Bendigo respondents: with 14% of Ballarat respondents, compared to 9% of Daylesford/Bendigo respondents reporting stomach upset or diarrhoea; 13% of Ballarat respondents, compared to 8% of Daylesford/Bendigo respondents reporting irritated throat or dry cough; and 22% of Ballarat respondents, compared to 14% of Daylesford/Bendigo respondents, reporting having had cold symptoms, including runny nose or sneezing. . .

p15 . . . Those persons most likely to have experienced an illness episode during November/December were older people (23% of those aged 60 years or older having experienced an illness during November/December 1993) and children (19% of those aged less than 5 years, and 10% of those aged 5 to 11 years, being identified as having suffered an illness during November/December 1993).

It had been expected that persons dependent upon bore, tank or bottled water as their main source of drinking water might be more susceptible to illness conditions. Table 2 shows that 16% of persons living within such households reported any illness experience during November/December 1993, which is only marginally higher than the 12% reporting illness amongst those persons dependent on town water as their main drinking water.

p19 . . . Table 5 summarises survey data on the extent to which reported illnesses during November and December were believed and/or suggested to be related to exposure to chemicals within the environment. Overall, 5% of respondents believed an illness was definately or very likely to be related to chemical exposure, while 4% considered it quite likely that an illness had been related to chemical exposure within the environment. However, . . . respondents living in the affected Ballarat region were only marginally more likely than respondents living in Daylesford/Bendigo to believe an illness had been related to chemical exposure (10% and 8% respectively).

Only 3% of respondents reported their doctor as having suggested an illness might be related to exposure to chemicals within the environment, while a further 1% of respondents reported that someone else had suggested an illness might be related to chemical exposure.

Overall, 10% of Ballarat, and 9% of Daylesford/Bendigo respondents reported that they believed, or that it had been suggested, that an illness of a household member during November/December 1993 might have been related to chemical exposure. However, most (6%) considered such exposure to relate to general pollution within the environment and not to a specific chemical, although no one specifically mentioned hexazinone (or its brand name, Velpar) as being the particular chemical believed or suggested to be related to an illness.


p24 The findings of the survey conducted throughout specific areas of Ballarat, the nearby Daylesford region, and the Bendigo region, do not support the hypothesis regarding an expected higher prevalence of illness within Ballarat region, nor the further hypothesis regarding higher levels of stress or anxiety within the Ballarat and Daylesford regions. While there was no overall difference in the prevalence of illnesses, it is worth noting the significantly higher prevalence of specific symptoms amongst Ballarat respondents, such as upset stomach or diarrhoea, irritated throat or dry cough, and cold symptoms.

However, as might be expected, respondents within the Ballarat region were more aware, than were respondents within Daylesford/Bendigo, of media reports concerning health risks from exposure to chemicals within the environment. It is therefore interesting to note that in spite of greater awareness of media coverage of health risks from exposure to chemicals within the environment, Ballarat respondents were not more likely to report greater stress of anxiety than respondents in Daylesford/Bendigo. . .

Chemical damage alarms Ballarat citizens 25/3/94 Melbourne Age

The Environment Protection Authority may take legal action is it finds the law has been breached in an incident that left 500 square kilometers of central Victoria sprayed with farm chemical including most of the city of Ballarat.

The spraying of the herbicide Hexazinone has raised health and environmental concerns among Ballarat residents and damagd elm trees in Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour. A community health hotline was set up in late February, when the chemical’s presence was first detected.

Many trees have suffered from spotted leaves, and hundreds of elm trees have dropped their leaves early. But local health officers have advised that no trace of the chemical had been found in the city’s water supply and that homegrown fruit and vegetables were safe to eat.

The EPA is investigating the incident, which probably occurred late last year. The area affected runs south of Ballarat as far as Buninyong, and north to Clunes. There has been speculation that the chemical dump was caused by a drift from aerial spraying of pine forests.

Hexazinone is used to retard the growth of young eucalypts in pine plantations. An EPA spokesman said there was no confirmed link between aerial spraying and the chemical’s appearance, but that any breaches of the Environment Protection Act could lead to court action.

About 50 people have rung a hot line set up by the Department of Health and Community Services. The EPA has also set up a hot line for people to give information about the spraying.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Graham Rouch, said Ballarat’s residents were not at risk from hexazinone. Herbicides worked on plant systems but were not toxic to humans, he said. But Dr Rouch said hexazinone could irritate the eyes.

No traces of the chemical had been found in Ballarat’s water, he said. “We’re looking at very tiny drops in a diluted form (over Ballarat),” he said.

The City of Ballarat’s director of gardens and parks, Mr Phil Clingin, said yellow spots appeared on leaves of trees in the Avenue of Honour last November. Mr Clingin said about 25 per cent of the avenue’s 4000 trees had been affected, with many dropping all their leaves. He said it was too early to say whether the elms would recover.

The ALP candidate for Ballarat Province, Mrs Catherine Laffey, said there was widespread concern about the spraying, although it was important that people were not unduly alarmed. Mrs Laffey said an independent inquiry should be held. Ballarat Community Health Council’s executive officer, Mr Paul Niall, said no one had come in with health problems from the spray.

A spokesman for the Australian Medical Association in Ballarat said doctors had not reported patients being affected. A Ballarat Councillor, Ms Janet Dale, said she believed the incident was being properly investigated but that more stringent controls might be needed once the EPA released its results.

P1 Ballarat Courier March 1994? Ballarat trees’ yellow spotting illness - Labor urges compo rights by Kim Quinlan

Ballarat people should be entitled to compensation for damage done to trees as a result of the yellow spotting illness, the Opposition spokesman for Conservation and Resource management, Barry Pullen, said yesterday.

Mr Pullen was in Ballarat to inspect the trees. He said if it was proved the damage was caused by an accident or poor practice, people should be entitled to some form of compensation.

A petition calling for an independent inquiry into why the damage occurred was also presented to Mr Pullen during his visit. The petition called on the Government to “take all necessary steps to ensure that the Government establish an independent inquiry into this matter, and the issue of the spraying of herbicides into the Victorian environment, to document the facts, calculate the losses and make recommendations to ensure that such damage will not recur”.

More than 800 signatures were presented to Mr Pullen by ALP candidate for Ballarat West Robyn Mason and more are still to come.

The Courier - Ballarat April 16, 1994

P3 Low levels found in soil, water Low levels of hexazinone have been detected in soil and water samples in the Ballarat area.

The Environment Protection Authority yesterday confirmed the chemical was present in soil and water samples. The samples had been taken from and near two pine plantations in the Ballarat district.

An EPA spokesman said the most recent results indicated that levels of hexazinone detected were “very low”. They were well within guidelines established to protect health and the environment.

However, soil and water samples taken and analysed from residential areas in Ballarat, Creswick, Buninyong and Clunes showed no hexazinone present. The spokesman said information from the samples would be used in any prosecution taken by the EPA regarding the yellow spotting incident.

Investigations were continuing, he added.

Spray ‘won’t hurt you: doctor The Courier - Ballarat April 16, 1994

P3 The herbicide believed to have caused yellow spots on thousands of the region’s trees should not pose any danger to the health of the community, a public health physician confirmed yesterday.

Department of Health and Community Services’ Dr Malcolm Dobbin said hexazinone - the chemical identified in plant samples from trees afflicted by the mysterious yellow spots - had not been linked with adverse health conditions, and was one of the least toxic chemicals used in agriculture.

“People often worry about cancer or birth defects in situations like this and no such long-term effects have been associated with the chemical,” Dr Dobbin said. If hexazinone had drifted more than 800 square kilometers, it would have mixed with large volumes of air and be very diluted.

“When you look at health effects of chemicals you consider their toxicology and the dose, and in this case the toxicology is low and the dose distributed over a very large area,” he said.

Hexazinone was used to control unwanted plants by affecting photosynthesis and because humans had different biological systems to plants, they were not subject to the same effects. Dr Dobbin believed ongoing water tests in the Ballarat district would continue to read negative.

Water samples collected by the department on February 21 from town water supplies and private rainwater tanks in Ballarat, Wendouree, Buninyong, Creswick and Clunes, did not show any sign of the chemical. Home grown produce was also considered safe as the levels of exposed trees were below levels allowed for drinking water and other foodstuffs.

Hexazinone was broken down by micro-organisms in the soil after a few months. Ballarat Department of Agriculture’s Reg Hill said hexazinone - sold as Velpar L - was a safe chemical relative to other chemicals used on food crops, but said no chemical could ever be said to be “totally safe”.

Although is has yet to be proved that the random yellow spotting was caused by herbicide drift, a recent issue of Elm Watch (a newsletter of the Friends of the Elms) reporting the yellow spotting, outlined that a new Aerial Spraying Control Act assented to last year, made off-target spray drift an offence.

However, the article said investigations indicated correct guidelines were followed when Velpar was most recently applied near Ballarat. A final environmental report is not expected for another seven weeks, but a progress report will be available this month.

Letter to the Editor April 1994 - Ballarat Courier

We refer to the recent publicity concerning the damage caused to the property of residents in the Ballarat district by, reportedly, Herbicide drift.

While we understand that continued investigations need to be undertaken to identify the precise cause of the afflication, we are happy to advise both existing or potential clients of their rights to pursue claims for compensation as more conclusive information comes to light.

We are already aware of some instances of stock losses thought to be attributed to this cause. We are also undertaking our own expertise in an attempt to establish the cause, nature and extent of the afflication **** ****


In November 1992 several privately owned softwood plantations in North-East Victoria were treated with the fungicide Copper oxychloride (CuoC1) to control Dothistroma needle cast fungus.

Dothistroma was again present in October/November 1993 with the Department of Natural Resources acting on behalf of the Victorian Plantation Corporation in attempting to control the Dothistroma in 6,355 hectares of Radiata Pine plantations in the north east. (2875 hectares of plantations at Upper Murray, 2500 hectares at Beechworth/Ovens and 980 hectares at Benalla). 100 hectares of these plantations were treated with Foli-R-Fos 200).

"Pine Needle Blight cannot be eradicated from infected areas because it is an air-borne fungal disease. Spraying with copper-based fungicide is the only proven and immediate method of disease control. Aerial spraying with fungicides will therefore be a regular practice in plantations in north east Victoria . . .

In previous spraying programs, particular attention has been paid to exclusion of riparian zones and streams from the treated area and stream water has been routinely sampled for detection of any copper residues. This has led to a major point of concern in that the unsprayed riparian zones along streams are a continuing source of inoculum for the disease. At present the systemic fungicide (Foli-R-Fos 200) is being evaluated for control of the disease . . . This fungicide is being tested operationally because of its extremely low toxicity to fish - the LC50 (96 hrs) for Foli-R-Fos 200 against Rainbow Trout is estimated to be 1,500 milligrams per litre." - Source DNRE.

Application rates of 1.6 kilograms a.i. /hectare of Copper oxychloride as a 50% wettable powder. At that time the EPA had a threshold value for copper in freshwater of 0.01 ppm and wanted pine companies to monitor copper to 0.002 ppm. (Copper at 10 ug/L = 0.1 ppm). Most of the 1993 sample analysis results gave readings of Copper (ug L) <2 ug/L, however a number of readings in Koetong Creek (trout cod habitat) came in higher. Three readings of 9 ug/L, 7 ug/L, 6 ug/L out of 31 sites were recorded, with only one site on Koetong Creek 13 ug/L being recorded over the EPA threshold value.

Australian Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Waters - November 1992.


The concentration of total copper in fresh waters should not exceed 2-5 ug/L, depending on water hardness.

The concentration of total copper in marine waters should not exceed 5 ug/L

Natural sources of copper in aquatic environments include weathering of copper minerals and native copper; however anthropogenic activities can release significant amounts of copper to the environment (McNeeley el al. 1979). Copper is commonly found in the +II state in natural waters. The composition of the various copper species depends on pH and the presence of inorganic and organic ligands in the water. As an essential element, copper is readily accumulated by plants and animals; bioconcentration factors ranging from 100 to 26,000 have been recorded for various species of phytoplankton, zooplankton, macrophytes, macroinvertebrates and fish (Spear & Pierce 1979).

The toxicity of copper in fresh waters increases with decreasing water hardness and dissolved oxygen concentration. High concentrations of chelating agents (e.g. humic acids, amino acids) and suspended solids lead to lower copper toxicity, presumably by complexation forming less available forms of copper (Alabaster & Lloyd 1982). Acute toxicity data for freshwater species in forty-one genera are available (USEPA 1985c). At a hardness of 50mg/L, the values ranged from 17 ug/L for Ptychocheilus to 1,000 ug/L
for Acroneuria. Skidmore and Firth (1983) found the acute toxicity of copper for ten Australian species ranges from 200 ug/L to 7,800 ug/L, and Bacher from O'Brien (1990) reported that acute toxicities for Australian species ranged from 40 ug/L to 21,000 ug/L.

Chronic values for fifteen freshwater species ranges from 4 ug/L upwards (USEPA 1986). Changes in fish behaviour have been demonstrated at concentrations as low as 4 ug/L (CCREM 1991). A size effect has been shown for bluegill, guppy and rainbow trout, with juveniles being more sensitive than adults (Chakoumakos et al. 1979; Tsai & Chang 1981). Fish and invertebrates seem to be about equally sensitive to the chronic toxicity of copper in fresh waters. The sensitivity of a number of species of freshwater plants that were tested was similar to those of animals (USEPA 1986). Protection of animal species appears to offer adequate protection of plants.

CCREM (1991) recommended a guidleine for copper based on hardness, with concentrations ranging from 2 ug/L to 6 ug/L. USEPA (1986) recommended a criterion based on a formula requiring a value for water hardness. Hart (1982) established a criterion of 5 ug/L for filterable copper in soft waters with low complexing capacity.



The Atrazine Campaign
From For the Forests

by Helen Gee
Annie Willock and Bart Wisse

In 1993, the people of Lorinna refused to accept the poisoning of domestic water with herbicides used in the establishment of a plantation in their water catchment. Atrazine was being sprayed in the Eucalyptus nitens plantation to kill the aggressive snowgrass weed. Atrazine is a teratogen and has been found to cause cancer of the ovaries, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and to suppress the immune system.

Lorinna residents persisted in claiming, 'For us there is no safe level, no acceptable level...we have to make a stand for other areas.' When forestry leaders claimed their pursuit of a chemical free environment was idealistic, the people of Lorinna argued that they were living an ideal.

Because of its isolation, in rugged north-west Tasmania, Lorinna has the potential to develop as Tasmania's organically-grown food capital. However, to be approved as a bio-dynamic farm, soil and water must be free of all synthetic chemicals. Three and a half months after the spraying in the catchment, the atrazine levels at Lorinna exceeded the World Health Organisation's safe level.

Fiery and courageous campaign spokesperson Annie Willock told Simply Living magazine, 'We are not ratbags up here, we're not into sabotage or any of that extreme behaviour, we just want some respect for our way of life.' This was a fight about lifestyle and the right of a community to defnd itself, to rage against the dying of the light. Annie's story is profound and inspirational and she and partner Bart Wisse atold it with the passion that many have lost through distancing themselves from real life. Editor.

"Prior to the atrazine campaign we had spent three or four years as total recluses. It had just been the kids, us, the garden and home education for five children. Our neighbour Tania Wilby came with a whole lot of information about what Forestry was intending in Lorinna's water catchment. She was looking for donations for some water tests because, she told us, they are going to use poisons in our catchment and we want to test the water.

Somebody advised us that we needed to write to the Chief Commissioner, Evan Rolley, and to the Minister for Forests, Ray Groom; to remind them that they would be held responsible if we had any ill health or other effects from this poison. We had a computer so we wrote that letter, personalised, for everybody in the valley. As soon as we had done that, bang, we were in it!

All other activities took a back seat. It was such a direct threat. Anthony and Jo were doing all the preparatory work. It was only when we started to realise what we had to do and the nature of the beast. I always felt it was a call to arms. Gaia was saying, 'OK its your turn now.' And that's the way we approached it. It was not something we particularly wanted to do; it needed to be done.

We contacted the Ombudsman and the Registrar of Pesticides; we went through all the proper channels and got told, 'Relax, it's OK.' The more they tried to make us feel secure the less secure we felt. We spent six months on the phone and gradually came to realise the system was designed to pacify and then to disempower and shut down community concerns. So we started looking at direct action.

There was quite a core group of people here in Lorinna mobilised and everybody was made aware of it and given letters to sign and send off. We were putting out a monthly newsletter which was basically a home education tool to incite the kids to write, for one thing, but it also became the update on atrazine and our dealings with Forestry. The kids would get on horses and go to the far reaches of the valley, delivering circulars and say there's a meeting at one o'clock and we'd all meet for half an hour. It would be enough time for everybody to say, 'No chemicals in the catchment' and we'd all dissipate and I'd be on the phone saying sorry Mr District Forester, no chemicals in the catchment.

We were so overwhelmed that the concern communicated itself to those people who would otherwise be taken in by the chemical company rhetoric and bureaucratic rhetoric that told them things were OK.

This was all pre-spray. We suggested we would hand weed their buffers in exchange for them not using chemicals. Then we got back to one of our hall meetings and people said they are going to come back in fifteen years and we're going to have the same fight. We have all slaved our guts out to have the whole thing stripped again in fifteen years. In the meantime we've worked for nothing to hand weed a pulpwood plantation. It's only going to be exported as woodchips.

There was a television interview. As spokesperson I was asked, 'What do you think will happen now they have got this information?' I said, 'Look, the information is so good these guys will stop using atrazine.' They laughed. I was so naive. I was convinced they'd stop! I really was genuinely convinced.

A really significant contribution was the lead I was given by Dr Juliet Lavers of the Environmental Health Association. 'Have you spoken to Jack Lomax?' she asked. Then fifteen minutes later the phone rang: 'This is Jack Lomax. If you are really going to get involved in a campaign you need some non-violence workshops.' He said, 'I could come up next weekend.' and I thought, 'Shit, it will be all over by then,' and felt so guilty about this man offering to travel all the way up from Lachlan. I felt like it was something too great to ask. As it turned out Forestry hadn't sprayed yet and it wasn't all over and Jack came up and gave non-violence workshops. Juliet came too.

We were meeting with Forestry about three times a week. Sometimes down here and sometimes up on the coupe. One time we had a meeting scheduled for the Thursday at eleven o'clock and at ten o'clock they were going to start spraying up on the coupe. So we said, 'Don't bother coming to Lorrina, we are all going to be up on the coupe,' and we were. That was OK. They stopped spraying, they sent their guys away for a few days or a few weeks. Negotiations kept going.

They gave us concessions. They did a ground-based operation rather than aerial, to minimise the contamination risk; they gave us extra buffers - they were supposed to be 70 metres from the stream and they increased it to 100 metres. They were going to spray amatrol and atrazine but they dropped amatrol and decided they'd use round-up instead. They said that had to have a persistent pre-emergent herbicide, which was atrazine, but they had to spray it in conjunction with a knock down herbicide.

Paul Smith, the Area Forester, said to me, 'You've run a good media campaign, you've had good coverage, but that's enough.' That was the red rag to the bull! It was a fabulous thing to say to me. I knew then that we really had to go for it.

Finally it was spray-day. We trucked up and stood in front of the tractors and prevented them starting work. Alan Watson, the District Forester, called in the big guns and they came and started arresting people. It looked like the policemen spent all morning polishing their boots for the media and they trucked out here with a great convoy of vehicles. They parked on the road and marched in twos to the coupe; it was just so funny. Only two of us got arrested. Sandra was so fired up. While the police were talking to the rest of us, she ran up and stood in front of the tractor driver when he started up his machine. The other one, Martin Klussendorf, spent the night in jail because he refused to sign the bail conditions. And that was a really important move because it got national coverage as well as state coverage. We made the front page of the paper:

With the negotiations at a standstill a number of residents moved onto the plantation early yesterday morning obstructing operations by standing in front of a tractor and spray unit. The driver immediately shut down the engine and walked away from the machinery. 'I went to start the tractor. Someone was standing in front of it'. he said. I'm not licenced to run over people'. The Advocate, 5 May 1993.

We had a meeting of about 20 people and of those there were six prepared to get arrested so we had to spread it out. The second day we were going to get arrested and at six o'clock in the morning Tania rang and said, 'I can't stand it. I want Wilbur and me to get arrested today,' so we swapped days. But after the second day of arrests they banned the media from the site and we couldn't see the point in getting arrested. The whole purpose was to make the wider community aware of what was going on.

Forestry said publicly that if they were going to permit us to negotiate over our water catchment they would be in a position where everybody would want to negotiate over their catchment.

On Saturday 1 May 1993 the Targa Tasmania race cars came right through the coupe. I was worried all night about what to do with this opportunity. We had been invited to afternoon tea with Rimpoche at the local Buddhist Gompa and I really wanted to be involved in that, but on the morning I decided we would go out to Targa. At 9am we brought out a ten metre length of black building paper and a can of white paint and we wrote on it in four foot high letters 'DON'T POISON OUR WATER MR GROOM'

We knew Premier Groom was in Targa with fellow Minister Peter Hodgeman. There were seven of us and we walked and walked. By the time we had made this sign the roads were closed to us, so we had to walk up to the coupe through the bush. We got ourselves against the wind-row on a sweeping curve and held up this sign which really stood out, white lettering on black. Everyone had a long time to read it. The last car came puttering along with Hodgeman leaning out the window. We knew they had read the sign, there was no doubt.

We did a lot of other things; we went to Mr Groom's house. We took a map to show him where the poisoning was happening and where the houses were. It made me feel good about Tasmania that you could rock up to the Premier's door and deliver. It's very empowering to do that kind of stuff. Every time an opportunity presented itself we would create something to do. We didn't set out with a goal and a map of how to get there. As something happened we tried to find out how we could use it to our greatest advantage; it was ad hoc.

Our first phone bill during the campaign was $900. It had jumped from $200 to $900. We didn't have donations but when we needed some legal work done we got Anna Crotty to find out all the water laws. It cost $1000. To get $1000 was just completely beyond us. A couple of the women made some carob sultana balls and were selling them around the valley. The Kentish Women's Group held a vegetarian feast as a fundraiser for us - the Cleanwater Network. They did it all and we got over $1000 from that one night. There were people from Scottsdale, from Derby, and from Scamander. People just showed up - it was amazing.

We went to Hobart in May and promoted The Davies Report, an Inland Fisheries Report, 1991, on the contamination of streams. Davies reported really high levels of atrazine in streams following rain in all the plantation coupes that he'd tested. The commissioned Report said the presence of pesticides in streams as a result of forestry plantation spraying is a concern; the need to prevent stream pesticide contamination should be realised at the planning stage of plantations, not left to be considered as an inconvenience when the need to spray arises.

This was reported on 10 May 1993 in The Mercury.

We publicised the report on a Sunday; it got second billing on the seven o' clock news. After that was a lull. Then the rain came. Forestry promised us some tests. They have a statutory obligation to test pre-spray, day of spray and then after the first significant rainfall. They tested pre-spray, they tested day of spray, and then it didn't rain. A month after spraying we had really light drizzle. Alan Watson rang me up and said there was a bit of rain up there over the weekend so he asked, the Department of the Environment - the DELM - to come up and take some samples. I said, 'It really didn't rain much Alan; it's just a bit of drizzle.' On the Thursday it absolutely pissed down and I rang him and said, 'Alan it's raining; this is real rain,' and he said, 'Annie I can't have them running up and down the State twice in one week. I just can't do that.'

I was really frantic; I knew this rain was for real. We rang the emergency number at the DELM and we said, 'We need this testing to take place, it's pissing with rain and the Forestry Commission won't do it.' So they sent somebody out. It was bitterly cold. We went out with our bottles from the Launceston Environment Centre and took some samples. DELM came out 45 minutes after us and took samples in exactly the same spot. We were there to meet them and they didn't know we had taken samples. We sent ours to Melbourne. They sent theirs back to Hobart and had them analysed. Ours came back 0.2 parts per billion and theirs came back 0.1 part per billion. We jumped up and down; ours were twice as high; the laboratory in Hobart was not certified to test for atrazine whereas the Melbourne laboratory was. We were talking about miniscule amounts of atrazine but we made such a noise about it, and we got heaps of media because of the discrepancy - even though Paul Smith, Area Forester, referred to it as 'a bull's roar away' from the 0.2 parts per billion which was the World Health Organization - WHO - benchmark.

But because the atrazine was definitely there and there was a discrepancy, after the next rain a week or so later DELM authorised a dual sample. They took samples from a number of sites and sent one of each to Melbourne and Hobart laboratories. Forestry wanted to show how responsible t hey were and genuinely wanted to look at it and get it right. Paul Smith had used this 0.2 parts per billion benchmark and the next result was way over. It was 9.3 parts per billion; nearly five times the World Health Organisation allowable limit. Forestry now had to come up with some story to destroy the position they had created for us. So they said it's OK for short term exposure.

Meantime, practically on a daily basis, I'd be ringing them to ask for results of analysis. When they first tested they refused to give them to us until they had the complete result, and when we had these huge levels, we couldn't get any results out of them. We had rung and rung and they passed us on one time too many. I said to whoever it was on the other end of the phone, I don't actually need to speak to Brian, I just need the results of these tests sitting on his desk, and the Forestry staff member read them to me. So I informed the media without Forestry having officially released the figures!

Primarily it was a water catchment and secondly it was a plantation. We were negotiating from the water catchment position to permit the plantation to be there and it was very exciting to see how far they bent. They had no choice; the fear that this campaign would reflect on Tasmania's clean, green image was raised as an issue in the State parliament.

Ricky Eaves said, 'I want to do an article for Simply Living, meet me up at the coupe.' We went up there with our banner; it was my birthday. We found they had put in a trial planting to test for browsing. The seedlings were in the wrong place; they were in the buffer zone which had been given back to the Lorinna people. So a group of our people removed them. Then negotiations changed. We got promises of no fertlisers, no more herbicides, no 1080, no synthetic pyrethroids and a promise of negotiation over longer rotations. Immediately those trees disappeared the ball game changed. The following agreement was made between Lorinna Community and the Forestry Commission on Future Management of Gads Hill Eucalypt Plantations. It was dated February 1994 -

'In response to the concerns of the community the Forestry Commission will not use 1080 poison, herbicides, fertilisers or synthetic pyrethrum based on chemicals in the catchments that supply water to the community. Biological control agents (Bacillus) may be used to control leaf eating beetles if growth of the plantations is threatened by defoliation.

The Eucalypt plantation, Gads Hill, has been established to grow sawlog. Thinning and pruning of selected trees will be required to promote sawlog growth.

...In the event that full funding for non-commercial thinning is not available, the Lorinna Community have offered to non-commercially thin the plantation within the catchments that supply the water to the community. That being the case, the Forestry Commission will facilitate training to enable residents of Lorinna to gain appropriate accreditation to carry out the operation . . .'

As for our water supply, Forestry installed activated carbon filter cylinders that required back flushing twice a day. For the first three weeks they reduced the level of atrazine. DELM tested the water pre-filter and post-filter every 10 days. After three weeks about 60% of the atrazine present in the water was coming through the activated carbon filters which were the only commercial filters which claimed to remove atrazine. After they were showing 60% we didn't want one anymore.

They will not make a profit out of that 120 hectare plantation. They sprayed 90 hectares with atrazine, and another part with Roundup. When you consider all the travelling, the consultation, the water supply remedies, it must have cost badly.

As early as May 1993 Forestry put out a call for public submissions on alternatives to chemical sprays but it was only after the Derby campaign that they employed Paul Dredge to look into alternatives. Meanwhile they had a moratorium on atrazine. The PR was getting bad. They have gone public saying they have ceased the use of atrazine and that it cost them only 10% extra to reduce their level of chemicals by 90%. They are still using Round-up, simazine and hexazinone. These chemicals are just as bad but don't have the negative profile.


I think the campaign was successful. It wasn't enough but it was successful. The media gave us a good run; it sold papers. What it did for us personally was to make us really conscious of the whole forestry debate and it gave us a foot into looking at the whole thing more thoroughly. We had two calls from a member of The Wilderness Society who said cool off; we support plantations. It didn't go down well at all. As for the wider community, I think it raised awareness. As far as Forestry Tasmania is concerned they did change what they were doing. They said to us we don't want to poison any more water; but then they did it again in Scamander and then Waratah, with aerial spraying and no concessions.

In the Lorinna plantation they put in trials, little efforts at scattering woodchips and paper mats around the trees. They did a few experiments. The Eucalyptus nitens plantation is a bit patchy; some are doing particularly well and some are stunted.

We simply had to make a stand against the insensitivity of a government department following its guidelines. Forestry Tasmania got so much bad publicity they have since had to be mindful of water supplies downstream of spraying. But corporate logging companies, North in paticular, don't seem very worried about it.

Twelve months after spraying I had a soccerball-sized ovarian cyst growing inside me; it was removed but it wiped out my right ovary. There is no doubt in my mind that this was a result of the atrazine, no doubt.

I'm really clear about that. I can't prove it even though atrazine is renowned for its effect on the reproductive organs.

Even though you can prove that your water, once pristine, is now contaminated, unless it's contaminated drastically the authorities are probably going to do a whitewash. Water testing is expensive but you shouldn't bear the brunt of this cost. Even if you do, the difficulty is you can't necessarily connect the spraying incident with whatever happens to you health wise. It's like saying to a Rabbi, 'A tiny bit of pork won't hurt you.' If you are philosophically opposed to poison in your diet and you go to a great extent to achieve a chemically free diet, it's incredibly more inconvenient and costly, but it's a lifestyle choice.

They tested Lorinna water until they had three successive non-detectable levels. Whereas initially they tested every ten days, they later tested every six weeks, for about four years. In January 1994 atrazine was still detectable at low levels after rainfall events. Even with it being no longer detectable there is a sense that this pristine water source has been violated. There is a sense of impurity.

I feel personally tainted. To be obligated to feed this poison brew to my kids, to my animals, to my garden, you know, all the things I put time and energy into doing as purely as I can and as wholesomely as I can. To have an external source create a situation where I'm obligated to give them something decidedly inferior, is a real personal slight."

'You smoke too much or you eat the wrong foods but the role of unknowing exposures to carcinogens in food, water, air and the workplace is ignored.'
Dr Samuel Epstein, Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Illonois, in Tasmania in 1993 to deliver his annual Richard Jones Memorial Lecture.

Atrazine: How We Won the (Media) War - Peter Coxhead

Native Forest News - Native Forest Network 1995

Forestry Spraying Atrazine - the world’s most widely-used herbicide - is currently under moratorium in Tasmania. Forestry spraying of Atrazine in plantations accounts for 85% of application while the remaining 15% is used by industry, private individuals and muncipal councils. Despite frequent incidents in the past, little or no coverage or waterway contamination occurred, until the community at Lorinna gained a great deal of publicity when their water supply was contaminated from forestry spraying. This event was to have a profound affect on public response to the following events in the Derby township in July 1994.

Atrazine: How We Won the (Media) War - Peter Coxhead

In June 1994 the newly-corporatised Forestry Tasmania (FT) sprayed 53 hectares of clearfell located 7km above Derby’s water storage at Cascade Dam. Prior to spraying FT notified local council of their intentions. The council, responsible for water quality, failed to notify residents, one of whom approached FT to substantiate what was still a rumour and to find out what results had shown up downstream of the spray site. FT confirmed spraying and refused to release the results. In the hope of forcing out the information, residents went to the media, since, subsequent to Lorinna, FT had promised to release all spray results to the public. During the three months that followed we had 63 newspaper articles and considerable radio and TV coverage.

The initial FT response to the media campaign was to claim that the dilution factor and Derby’s distant storage site meant that our water would not show contamination. Twenty days later, atrazine appeared in the town’s taps. The next council meeting witnessed residents spilling out of the chamber, down the corridor and into the street - quite a change. The council wrote to FT requesting a moratorium. In reply FT sought a closed meeting with all councilors and from that day onward, at the mention of the word Atrazine they would all chant “council does not want Atrazine - or any othert chemical - in our water supplies, but we take our advice from the state Health and Environment Departments.” This may have eased their conscience, but didn’t do much for the residents.

The media campaign had Atrazine’s manufacturer Ciba Geigy desperately trying to explain that countries were mistaken in their banning of the herbicide, and that it couldn’t harm anyone. Especially not those people in Italy with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, nor those in Kansas with bowel - or was it uterine? - cancer. They seemed especially concerned to point out that the Atrazine rain in the US - and Atrazine fog in Europe - were only a result of naughty farmers who used the stuff incorrectly. Maybe the fact that 75% of US water bores are contaminated with this farmer’s friend was a clerical error.

Then we released information from the manufacturers that the metabolites of Atrazine - what it breaks down into - were more than twice as toxic as the compound itself. Ciba Geigy called a private meeting in Melbourne (off the island) with their PR lackeys along with FT, North Forest Products, the Health Department and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). FT agreed to send a list of the names of pests such as us - totaling hundreds - hoping we might be influenced by Ciba Geigy propaganda. Some government employees at the meeting agreed to lobby politicians to try and ease the pain for Ciba Geigy.

By then the Australian Medical Association had come out against the spraying of Atrazine. Dozens of us in Derby sent letters of liability to the company, forestry, council, departments of health and environment, telling them we held them legally responsible for the disaster. We held a public meeting with FT who offered a water tanker for us to drink from, which they retracted when it seemed we might accept. Then the National Registration Authority of Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRA) changed the rules, amending its use near water and banning its use by councils, industry and private individuals, but exempting forestry and agriculture. By now Ciba Geigy Australia was copping flack from the Switzerland head office, and requested that some of the bosses come out to Tasmania.

In the end the NRA began a review of the health, environment and trade implications of the herbicide (Atrazine residues have become a convenient US trade barrier). In Tasmania a task force has been sent to monitor and test for all agricultural chemicals on monthly basis. Forestry Tasmania is spending $200,000 on investigating alternatives to chemical use in plantations. There is a moratorium on Atrazine and Simazine by FT until 1997.

There has been a heightening of awareness across Tasmania regarding agricultural chemicals, particularly as they relate to water quality, and councils are looking at using super-heated steam weed control methods in urban areas. The fight against chemical use in our forests and farms and around waterways is not over - the cruel use of 1080 wildlife poison kills up to 400,000 wallabies annually on farms and in plantations - but a battle has been won for a while. Atrazine is now a dirty word.

Atrazine Pesticide Contamination of Tasmania's Waterways (November 1994?)

Atrazine, a highly residual herbicide, is routinely used to suppress weed competition during plantation establishment. Atrazine is mutagenic and classed as a type 2B carcinogen by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is coming under increasing scrutiny world-wide as a ubiquitous polluter of waterways.


Atrazine has been used for forestry weed control for 26 years. Twenty one spray-sites in the north-east were studied by J.L.Barton and Dr P.E. Davies (1990-91) and showed consistent and persistent contamination of streams, at concentrations as high as 2,000 times the level recommended for potable water.

In May 1993, despite repeated pleas and public protest from the local residents, the Forestry Commission arrested the protesters and sprayed a cocktail of Atrazine and Roundup in the Lorinna water-catchment. When the rains came in July, the domestic water-supply was found to be contaminated at levels many times the World Health Organisation standard. Nearly a year and a half later, atrazine is still detectable at unacceptable levels in the Lorinna water-supply.

The Forestry Commission called for public submissions to find alternative methods of weed control. Following this process, it was publicly declared (11th Aug, '93) that cost-effective alternative methods existed and that the commission would not contaminate waterways after March 1994.

In June 1994, without consultation with the local residents, the Forestry Commission sprayed atrazine in the water-catchment at Derby. Consequently, the water for the entire town has become contaminated and residents have been obliged to find alternative supplies at their own expense.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines state:

"Atrazine should not be detected in drinking water. If it is detected, then remedial action should be taken to stop contamination."

Despite this, months later Derby taps deliver contaminated water and the state government ignores the situation.


Less than 1% of spray is absorbed by the plants.

The other 99% is distributed through the environment.

Atrazine is very fast moving through the environment because of its strong bond with water.

Very persistent and can last up to 4 years. There have been many detections 2 years after spraying in Tasmania.

The metabolites (break-down products) of atrazine can remain in the environment for up to 18-20 years.

Ciba Geigy admit that two of these products are at least as toxic as the parent chemical.

When mixed with fertiliser (eg when tree planting is done, usually 1 month after spraying) atrazine metabolites cab become as toxic as the parent chemical at only one ten-thousandth the strength.


WHO standards for atrazine in drinking water = 2ppb (parts per billion). This standard is set for third-world countries.

European Economic Community (EEC) limit = 0.1ppb.

The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (currently in draft form) set the level at 20ppb (200 times higher than the European level).

Guideline levels are determined for a 70kg male.

No assessment of risk to the elderly, small adults, the frail, children or foetus or the chemically sensitive is made.

The National Health and Medical Research Council ignore the substantial scientific literature condemning the continued use of the triazine herbicides.


- Disrupts endocrine functions;

- Mimics oestrogen in the body;

- Can reduce male virility (lowering of sperm count);

- Is of particular risk to pregnant women;

- Has been linked to breast tumours;

- Has been linked to cancers of the reproductive organs;

- Very low doses may damage sexual development of the foetus.


- Banned in Germany in 1991 because of concern about its detection in groundwater;

- Banned in Belgium;

- Banned in Austria in 1994;

- Sale suspended in Italy;

- No longer used in Scandanavian countries;

- Use in the Netherlands halted where water is intended for human consumption;

- Banned in Denmark as of May, 1994;

- Banned for non-agricultural use in Britain;

- Restricted in 28 states of the USA;

- In Germany and the mid-USA, atrazine has been detected in rain.

By Annie Willock and Peter Coxhead

8. Herbicides lethal to crustaceans, says study

The Tasmanian Conservationist
Number 262 December 1998

For further information please go to the Environmental Engineering Website.

By Peter Spinks

Herbicides entering rivers are lethal to native freshwater crustaceans such as yabbies, shrimps and water fleas, a leading scientist warned yesterday.

The stark warning has serious ramifications for animals such as fish that feed on crustaceans, which are at the base of the food chain.

"The whole of the Australian ecosystem could be at risk from continued spraying with these herbicides," said Dr Dayanthi Nugegoda, who led the research team in the Department of Applied Biology and Biotechnology at RMIT University.

The research reveals for the first time that even the relatively low concentrations of herbicides that are routinely recommended for spraying pose a serious threat to native crustaceans.

Dr Nugegoda's studies have looked at the effects of commonly used herbicides on the early life stages of the yabby, freshwater shrimps and Australian daphnids, tiny water fleas with transparent carapaces and protruding heads.

The study, part of a larger research project on the toxicity of agricultural chemicals to non-target organisms, has provided evidence that herbicides may affect the survival, growth and reproduction of indigenous freshwater crustaceans.

"Results of our study show that Australian crustaceans are more sensitive to some environmental toxicants than similar Northern Hemisphere species," Dr Nugegoda said. "Loss of native species from the Australian ecosystem is a growing problem and it is vital that all chemicals sprayed in Australia be tested for their
toxicity to non-target native species."

Dr Nugegoda-one of Australia's few ecotoxicologists-now plans to demonstrate the importance of testing agricultural chemicals on local species before they are licensed for release into the environment.

Her research was presented recently at an international conference in China.

Dr Nugegoda joined RMIT this year after working as a lecturer in the Department of Environmental Management at the Victoria University of Technology.

9. Spray fears - Plantation giant rejects risk claims

By Ruth Callaghan

Taken from West Australian page 1. 27/12/00.

The State Government has threatened to ban all aerial spraying of pesticides on bluegum plantations amid concerns that the chemicals could damage WA's beef, wine and aquaculture industries.

Use of one pesticide has been banned until at least February and Primary Industry Minister Monty House has warned that other chemicals will be blacklisted unless plantation owners change their habits.

But the timber industry has condemned the threat as a cheap vote-buying measure in Mr House's Great Southern electorate of Stirling. Plantation groups fear a ban could damage their own industry, which is worth close to a billion dollars.

And while environmentalists have welcomed a ban, they say it may come too late to prevent potential health problems.

Farmers, particularly in the Great Southern, have expressed fears that chemicals sprayed on plantations drifted on to other properties, collected on roofs and possibly threatened drinking water.

There are also concerns that aerial spraying has killed crustaceans in some dams and waterways.

Mr House said he shared the community's concern that spraying had a potential impact on human health and agricultural industries.

Earlier this year, the Health Department banned aerial spraying of the toxic chemical dimethoate
- which can be fatal if ingested in very high concentrations - until at least February. Dimethoate is used against moths. Another four chemicals are commonly sprayed on bluegums.

Mr House said he had asked Attorney-General Peter Foss for information about legally proving that over-spraying of plantations was occuring in agricultural regions.

He also announced that Agriculture WA would meet beef producers to develop a way of monitoring pesticide residue to protect exports. Mr House said plantation managers would need to commit to a final code of practice for the use of agricultural chemicals, which was in draft stage.

But plantation investment giant Timbercorp denied that the bluegum industry was not doing enough to minimise risks from aerial spraying.

Timbercorp spokesman Tim Browning said that a code of practice had been in place since September. The industry had adopted the code fully. He said Mr House was biased against plantations and was putting his re-election ahead of the State's best interests.

Mr Browning said the same chemicals used by the industry were used by canola growers, orchardists and on bowling greens.

If concerns about the safety of meat and wine were genuine, the same risks would have been presented by the massive locust eradication program run by Agriculture WA in recent months.

Conservationist Rob Versluis, a resident in Bow Bridge, between Denmark and Walpole, backed a ban on aerial spraying, but said the Government had taken too long to act. "We don't know that the drinking water is safe, even though they say (the chemicals) break down in time," Mr Versluis said.

"The yabbies are dying in the river, so I just don't believe the spray is harmless. We need to know if it is dangerous before they start to use it, not ban it down the track."

10. Statement on the effects of clearing native forest and replacing with plantation forestry at Mount Arthur

Associate Professor Brian Finlayson
Centre For Environmental Applied Hydrology
School Of Anthropology, Geography And Environmental Studies
The University Of Melbourne

March 2001.

'...B. Chemical contamination

Herbicides, 1080, fertilisers: The arguement that the spraying of herbicides, application of fertilisers, and laying of 1080 poison is of no environmental concern lies in the assumption that these rainforest soils have a thick humus layer which acts as a filter to chemical contaminants. The surface water containing contaminants gradually percolates down through this thick humus layer into the soil where the chemicals are fully absorbed and bio-degraded. Thus, the soil filters out all contaminants before the water reaches the water table and becomes runoff in local streams. While there is some truth in this arguement, it is not true for soils that have been subjected to disturbance during ground preparation prior to plantation establishment. When the forest is cleared, the thick humus layer is dissipated through burning and ploughing. Also in these forest soils, there are "macropores" (root holes, structural cracks, animal burrows etc) where some of the surface water is transported directly through the soil with no opportunity for contaminants in this water to be absorbed. This is further complicated in areas of block fields such as the higher parts of Mt Arthur where deep cavities carry water laterally through conduits below the surface and transport these contaminants directly into the streams. Some proportion of the contaminants will be moved quickly down through the soil in macropores then laterally through block fields emerging in springs and streams lower down the slope. These contaminants all then pass into the food chain...

Conclusions: Contamination of water with chemicals from herbicide and fertiliser application associated with plantation establishment will result from the operations in this area. Contamination of surface water from run-off, and soil erosion, will occur, increasing particularly as the soil becomes saturated during prolonged wet periods. The surface water will find its way into streams and rivers because of inadequate buffer zones of undisturbed vegetation. The impact of this is likely to be to cause ??????????? siltation and increased turbidity in water downstream.

11. Triazine Herbicide Contamination of Tasmanian Streams:
Sources, Concentrations and Effects on Biota

Australian Journal of Freshwater Research., 1994, 45, 209-26

P.E.Davies, L.S.J. Cook and J. L. Barton


Concentrations of the triazine herbicides atrazine, simazine, cyanazine, metribuzin and propazine were determined in streams draining forestry and agricultural catchments in Tasmania, Australia, between 1989 and 1992. Atrazine and simazine were used extensively by the forestry industry in a winter spraying programme, and applications of the other herbicides occurred in cropped agricultural catchments during spring and summer. Of 29 streams sampled intensively for triazines, 20 contained detectable residues. Median contaminations over all samples were 2.85, 1.05, <0.05, <0.05 and <0.05 ug L-1 for atrazine, simazine, cyanazine, metribuzin and propazine, respectively. All herbicide concentrations ranged over several orders of magnitude up to 53 mg L-1, with atrazine and simazine having significantly higher concentrations than the others. Atrazine concentrations were examined in streams draining forestry plantations for periods of up to two years. A decline in concentration was observed with time, but this was strongly influenced by rainfall events. Atrazine contamination from single spraying events persisted at a low level for up to 16 months. Contamination of Big Creek with atrazine to 22 ugL-1 after aerial spraying led to an increase in stream invertebrate drift only on the day of spraying and to a short-term increase in movement of brown trout. On examination of biological effects of triazines in surface waters reported in the literature, it was concluded that the observed frequent contamination of Tasmanian streams with triazines may cause occasional minor short-term disturbance to stream communities.


Contamination of surface and ground waters with triazine herbicides has been widely reported in the Northern Hemisphere for many years (Waldron 1974; Muir et al. 1978; Frank et al. 1979; deNoyelles et al. 1982; Buser 1990) and has led to the restriction of their use in some situations (Buser 1990). The triazine herbicides are reasonably hydrophilic, with water solubilities in the mg L -1 range and relatively low control-water partition coefficients. No review has been published to date of the contamination of surface waters in Australia with triazines. They are noted for their relative persistence and leachability (Muir et al. 1978), with half-lives in surface waters ranging from six to eight months (Klassen and Kadoum 1979). Given widespread use of these materials in both agriculture and forestry, it is anticipated that such contamination would be both frequent and widespread.

The triazine herbicide atrazine has received much attention as a surface-water contaminant, resulting from widespread use (global use in 1980 about 90 000t; Ellgehausen et al. 1980). Numerous reports attest to its ability to inhibit photosynthesis, change community structure, and cause the mortality of aquatic flora at concentrations between 20 and 500 ug L -1 (deNoyelles and Kettle 1980; deNoyelles et al. 1982) and to affect the survival, development and growth of aquatic insects and the physiology of fish at concentrations between 20 and 100 ug L-1 (Macek et al. 1976; Dewey 1986).

In Tasmania, Australia, the principal use of atrazine and simazine is within the forestry industry, with some 40 and 5.5t, respectively, of active ingredient sprayed on 27 000 ha of Eucalyptus plantation in 1990 (Barton and Davies, unpublished data). Spraying occurs in winter, generally between the months of May and November, usually after rains when soils are at a field capacity. Between 70% and 95% of the spraying is done by helicopter. A significant proportion of sprayed plantations are drained by, or border, perennial streams. The potential for contamination of surface runoff is therefore high. Spraying operators under contract to the forestry industry generally comply with guidelines published by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission (Anon. 1988a), which stipulate weather conditions for aerial spraying and no-spray zones (buffer widths) for streams. Barton and Davies (1993) reported relationships between atrazine concentrations in stream water draining aerially sprayed Eucalyptus nitens plantations and site characteristics. Atrazine concentration on the day of spraying was strongly negatively correlated with buffer width.

The triazine herbicides cyanazine, metribuzin and propazine are principally used in cropping, particularly on peas, and are applied usually during spring, from October to December, using tractor-mounted booms. Total annual use of these materials in Tasmania is of the order of 10, 3 and 2t, respectively, on some 5000 ha of crops.

This paper summarizes the results of several water quality surveys, including that of Barton and Davies (1993), for triazine residues in an attempt to describe the scope of stream triazine contamination in Tasmania. Single samples of stream water were taken either on a regular basis or in relation to an event (spraying or rain) in catchments in which triazines were used as a part of normal crop or forest management. The resulting data are used to describe the order of magnitude of contamination of Tasmanian streams with triazines. An assessment is then made of its potential impact on aquatic fauna and flora in the light of published literature. The paper also describes the responses of stream fauna to a single spraying of atrazine, aerially applied to two Pinus radiata plantations within the catchment of Big Creek, northern Tasmania, which is presented as a 'worst case'.

Materials and Methods

Residue Survey


In all, 44 sites were selected from 24 streams draining 21 forestry Eucalyptus plantations around Tasmania. Streams ranged in catchment area from 0.03 to 41 km2, with plantation areas ranging from 0.03 to 3km2. All plantations were less than two years old and were sprayed once with either atrazine (as Gesaprim, 50% active ingredient) or simazine (as Gesatop, 50% active ingredient) between the winter months of May and November. Application rates were 8-24 and 4-16 L ha-1, respectively. None of the sites had been sprayed previously. The proportion of the stream catchments sprayed ranged from 100% for those streams arising with plantations to 2% for large streams running through or adjacent to plantations. Most plantations studied were sprayed from a Hellyer 2LV helicopter fitted with a 3-m boom and No. 8015 flat-fan hydraulic nozzles producing a median droplet size of 500um. Spraying over bare ground was conducted at an altitude of around 10-15 m. Two sites were ground-sprayed from a tractor fitted with a boom, and two were sprayed by hand, from backpacks.

Four stream catchments were selected for intensive sampling of potential agricultural triazine sources - Skeleton, Buttons and Wilsons Creeks and Claytons Rivulet in northern Tasmania, with catchment areas of 8, 16, 39 and 49km2, respectively. These catchments were all intensively cropped for peas, potatoes, brassicas, onions, poppies, carrots, beans and pyrethium, with a total of 974 ha under crop in 1990-91. Twenty-five sampling sites were selected within these catchments, both within channels draining cropped areas and in the main streams. Five other streams - Kindred, Pardoe, Ghost, Sisters and Parramattah Creeks - were also sampled on one to four occasions.

Cyanazine, metribuzin and propazine (formulated as Bladex, Sencor and Agaprop, respectively) were all intensively sprayed by tractor boom in these catchments, primarily on peas and potatoes, with propazine being used for removal of pasture prior to cropping. Spraying was generally conducted once during spring to early summer. The period of most intensive use was from October to December at application rates of 1.5-2.0, 0.5-1.1 and 2.5-4.0 L ha -1, respectively. The three formulations consist of 50%, 50% and 48% active ingredient, respectively.

Sampling protocol

Streams draining plantations were sampled once on at least one of the following occasions: between 1 and 2 h after spraying (day of spraying), during the first day after the first major (>=5mm) rainfall event (first rain), one month after spraying, two to four months after spraying, 13-15 months after spraying, and 15-16 months after spraying and immediately following a major rain event. Half (55%) of the sites were sampled on each of the first three occasions.

The agricultural sites were sampled fortnightly between mid November and the end of December 1990 and between mid November and mid December 1991. Thus, sites were sampled on eight occasions, with four occasions being immediately preceeded by heavy rain and having associated high stream levels.

All samples were single spot samples taken from running water in solvent-rinsed 250-ml of 1-L glass bottles, with samples immediately spiked with 10ug of a reference standard of either atrazine or simazine. Samples were then stored at 4 degrees C and extracted within three days of collection.

Sample extraction and analysis

All stream-water samples were extracted by using Bond Elut of Spe-ed C18 reverse-phase column cartridges. All cartridges were eluted with a mixture of ethyl acetate and iso-octane (1:9). The eluant was stored at -20 degrees Celcius by gas chromatography (GC) or GC-mass spectroscopy (GCMS) after evaporation to 1uL, with references to standards and blanks. Samples of stream water were analysed for cyanazine, metribuzin and propazine with appropriate reference standards and blanks. Samples of stream water collected prior to spraying were also analysed on several occasions as additional blanks. Several batches of samples were collected in duplicate or triplicate in order to check the precision of analyses.

All GC analysis was done with a Varian GC with a BP5 column (0.32mm i.d.) with thermionic specific detector. GCMS analysis was performed by using a Varian Saturn 2 with a DB5 column (0.25 mm i.d.) under autotuned conditions. Detection limits were 0.1 and 0.01 ugL-1 for atrazine in the residue survey and the Big Creek study, respectively, 0.1ug L-1 for simazine, and 0.05 ugL-1 for all others.

Other sources of data

An additional 85 records of atrazine residues from 29 streams draining 15 plantations were made available for this study by the forest industry, supplied by the Forestry Commission and Associated Forest Holdings Pty Ltd, Tasmania. These data were generated from single samples collected either on the day of spraying or during the first rainfall event after spraying and analysed in the same manner as described above but with a detection limit of 1.0 ugL-1.

Statistical treatment

As much of the residue data was skewed and included a significant proportion of data below the detection limit, comparisons between data sets were made by using the non-parametric Mann-Whitney test for independent data or the Wilcoxon signed-rank test for pairwise comparisons (Helsel and Hirsch 1992). The Wilcoxon and the Kruskal-Wallis tests were used for comparing atrazine concentrations at the same sites between sampling occasions. Where comparisons were made between data with differing detection limits, the data were reported at the highest detection limit in the sample pairs and compared non-parametrically (Helsel and Hirsch 1992).

Big Creek Study

Study area

Big Creek, near Wynyard, northern Tasmania, is a perennial stream of 36 km2 catchment area draining into the Inglis River. The stream is typically of low conductivity (100uS cm -1) and supports a large population of brown trout (Salmo trutta L.). Much of the catchment has been cleared and converted to plantation. Two Pinus radiata plantations of 20 and 66 ha area were established in the centre of the catchment in 1989. The stream reach adjacent to Plantation A had no riparian vegetation other than scattered grasses and low shrubs, but riparian vegetation was more abundant adjacent to Plantation B.

Three study sites were established in the stream: one just above the plantation area, one immediately below Plantation A, and one immediately below Plantation B. Each site consisted of an upstream riffle, at the head of which invertebrate drift was sampled and from which benthic invertebrate samples were taken on each site visit. Below this, a 100-m section of stream bounded by riffles at the upstream and downstream ends was used to quantitatively sample the trout population. Below this, a further 100 m was used to capture fish for physiological examination.

Spraying treatment

Plantations A and B were sprayed with atrazine (Gesaprim formulation) on 13 and 14 October 1987, respectively, from a fixed-wing aircraft at application rates of 6 and 12 L ha -1 (3 and 6kg atrazine ha-1), respectively. No spraying had occurred in this catchment previously.

Sampling of residues

Water samples were taken several times on the day of spraying for each site, then daily for three days. Water sampling was then continued at intervals of four to seven days for one month, and all sites were again sampled in November and December. Fine superficial benthic sediment samples were collected from three locations at Site 2 on 29 October 1987, two weeks after spraying.

Water samples were analysed for atrazine as described above, with a detection limit of 0.01ug L-1. Sediment samples (10g) were extracted with dichloromethane: methanol (1:1, 100mL) in an ultrasonic bath. The supernatant was filtered into a flask and washed with water (500mL). The separated dichloromethane fraction was seperated and shaken with 50mL dichloromethane. The combined extracts were evaporated to near-dryness and redissolved in 5mL hexane. An aliquot of the solvent extract was analysed by GC.

Sampling of fauna

Trout populations and stream water were sampled at all study sites on the following dates: 17 September 1987 (one month before spraying), 15 October 1987 (one day after spraying), 22 October 1987 (one week after spraying), 29 October 1987 (two months after spraying), 13 November 1987 (one month after spraying), 15 December 1987 (two months after spraying), 3 February 1988 (three and a half months after spraying) and 10 May 1988 (seven months after spraying).

Invertebrate drift was sampled at all sites over a day-night period commencing on the following dates: 17 September 1987 (one month before spraying), 23 September 1987 (20 days before spraying), 2 October 1987 (11 days before spraying), 13-15 October 1987 (one to three days after spraying), 21 October 1987 (nine days after spraying), 29 October 1987 (17 days after spraying) and 5 November 1987 (24 days after spraying).

Benthic invertebrates were sampled on each occasion when drift was sampled, with the exception of 23 September 1987, and with the addition of sampling on 11 November 1987 (one month after spraying), 27 November 1987 (one and a half months after spraying), 16 December 1987 (two months after spraying) and 4 February 1988 (three and a half months after spraying).

Trout population

Brown trout populations were estimated at all sites by the removal method (Zippin 1958), using three passes of electrofishing equipment (Smith Root Model 12 400 W, pulsed direct current). All fish captured were weighed, measured and, on the first and second sampling events, marked with an adipose and a pelvic fin clip, respectively, prior to release. Subsequent recaptures were examined for the presence of fin clips.

Capture efficiency of electrofishing for trout >=1 year of age was consistently high at all sites, ranging from 94% to 99% for a three-pass operation and from 86% to 93% for a two-pass operation. The efficiency for 0+ trout was, however, low (<25% on two passes) and highly variable owing to their small size between October and December (trout first emerge into the stream in October). Therefore, only >=1+ fish were marked in this study, and all population density data refer to >=1+ trout.

Trout physiology

On each site visit, five trout were taken in the lowest site reach by electrofishing. This was done before electrofishing the population in the reach upstream, to avoid the possibility of capturing previously shocked fish. Fish were captured within 15 s of being stunned, and any fish that took longer to capture were released some 50 m below the sampling reach before continuing.

Each captured fish was killed in a buffered (pH 7) solution of MS222 (tricaine methanosulfonate) within 30 s of capture. Fish were quickly weighed and measured. Blood samples were taken from the caudal vein after the caudal peduncle was severed within 1 min of initial disturbance. Blood was collected in heparinized Eppendorf tubes and immediately centrifuged to separate plasma.

Muscle tissue was immediately excised and a small piece was taken from the mid-dorsal region below the major dorsal fin, snap frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen. Livers were excised after the biliary colour was noted, and the left lobe was snap frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen. The brain (entire) was removed, snap frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen.

Plasma protein was analysed by the Coomassie Brilliant Blue method (Bradford 1976), with bovine serum albumen solutions in 0.15 M NaCl as standards. Chloride was analysed by electrotitrimetry, using a Corning chloride analyser (Model 925). Glucose was analysed by the O-toluidine method, using Sigma reagent kit No. 635.

Liver samples were homogenized in 10 volumes of cold 0.1 M tris-HCI (pH8.3), using a glass-teflon Potter-Elvehjem homogenizer. Homogenates were centrifuged at 5 degrees C at 30 000 g for 1 h in Eppendorf tubes. Supernatants were assayed for glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity by the method of Habig et al. (1974) by monitoring absorbance at 340 nm and for glutathione (GSH) by the method of Ellman (1956).

Muscle RNA and DNA were assayed by the modified Schmidt-Thannhauser method described by Buckley (1979). Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity was assayed in brain tissue after the method described by Ellman et al. (1961) at 18 degrees C after the considerations of Zinkl et al. (1987).

Invertebrate drift

On each site visit, three drift-nets (500um mesh, 25 x 25 cm aperture) were set, submerged, across the channel and pulled each morning and evening for one day-night-day-night period. Material captured in the nets was stored in 4% formaldehyde. This material was later stored and fauna identified to family. Discharge through each net was estimated at set and pull, using an Ott current meter. The mean discharge for the period was then used to standardise net capture rates to unit discharge.

Benthic invertebrates

Five Surber samples (500um mesh size) were taken at random locations across the channel in the study riffle at each site visit. These samples were pooled and stored in 4% formaldehyde prior to sorting and identification to family.

Statistical treatment

This study loosely conforms to a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design as described by Green (1979), Stewart-Oaten et al. (1986) and Underwood (1991). However, it conforms to the requirement for replicated pre-impact sampling through time only for the drift data and not for the trout or benthic invertebrate data. Thus, for drfit data, a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) using the interaction term between site and time as the test statistic, or a t-test of differences between Site 1 and Site 2 and 3, could be used to detect impacts of the spraying event. For the trout and benthic invertebrate density data, only inferences could be made about trends relating to the spraying event (Hurlbert 1984).


Residue survey

Overall results

In all, 174 samples were collected and analysed for atrazine or simazine. Concentrations of atrazine and simazine ranged over several orders of magnitude from <0.01 ugL-1 to 53 mg L-1 and from <0.01 ugL-1 to 478.5 ug L-1, respectively. Overall medians were 2.85 and 1.05ug L-1, respectively, for all samples. Only 11.5% of samples collected from streams draining forestry plantations that had been sprayed were found to be below the detection limit (0.1 ugL-1) for atrazine or simazine. Thus, at least 88% of samples were contaminated with triazines. Of the samples analysed for atrazine, 9.6% were below the 0.1 ugL-1 detection limit and 24% were below 1.0 ugL-1. Of the 24 streams sampled, nine did not have detectable residues at some stage during the study and a further 12 (50%) had samples below 1.0 ugL-1.

Atrazine residues collected by the forestry industry ranged from <0.01 ugL-1 to 8.9mgL-1, with an overall median of 2.00ugL-1. Of these samples, 35% were reported as having atrazine concentrations below the detection limit of 1.0ugL-1, and 17 (58%) of the 29 streams studied had all samples below the detection limit. There was no significant difference between the atrazine concentration data collected in our study and that provided by the forest industry (Mann-Whitney U test, P>0.05).

In all, 118 samples were collected from the agricultural streams. Cyanazine was detected in 37 samples, propazine in nine, and metribuzin in seven. Concentrations of cyanazine, metribuzin and propazine ranged over several orders of magnitude, with all medians being <0.05 ug L-1 and maximum concentrations being 5.2, 1.3 and 3.3 ug L-1, respectively. These concentrations were significantly lower than those of either atrazine or simazine (Mann-Whitney U test, all P<0.0001), with 69%, 94% and 92% of the overall sample sets, respectively, being below the 0.05 ugL-1 detection limit.

Triazines were detected in 22 of the 57 samples collected immediately after heavy rain. This proportion was not significantly different, by x2 test (P>0.5), from that for the 61 samples collected between rain events, of which 22 samples had detectable triazine levels.

Factors affecting atrazine contamination

Atrazine residues decreased with time from the day of spraying from a median of 8.1ug L-1 to a median of 0.3ug L-1 13-15 months after spraying. Samples taken on the day immediately following a major rainfall event had significantly higher atrazine concentrations (Wilcoxon test, P<0.001) than did those collected immediately before. Thus, rainfall had a significant influence on stream atrazine concentrations, causing transient increases in median values from 0.3 to 2.0ug L-1 even after 13-15 months.

Big Creek Study

Spraying treatment and observations

The spread of spray drift was observed directly, by inspection of spray droplets on the ground and of plant mortality. Examination of spray-droplet deposits on wood debris indicated that droplet densities in the stream were similar to those in the plantation. This confirmed that spray drifted across the full length of the stream (400m) adjacent to Plantation A and over a small section (20m) adjacent to Plantation B. Despite intensive monitoring, no fish mortality of change in fish behaviour was observed on the day of spraying.

Atrazine concentrations

Measured atrazine concentrations in stream water were highest on the day when Plantation A was sprayed (22 ug L-1) and ranged between 1.2 and 4.6 ug L-1, with a median of 2.5 ug L-1, during the two weeks following spraying. Concentrations ranged between 0.01 and 0.09ug L-1 over the following two months.

Concentrations in a small seepage draining Plantations A and B ranged from 0.8 to 68 ug L-1 during the two months after spraying, confirming that such seepages were a primary source of contamination for Big Creek. Sediment samples collected at Site 2 ranged between 1.6 and 22 ug kg-1 wet weight two weeks after spraying.

Invertebrate drift

Total drift rates of invertebrates ranged from 442 to 4530 individuals per 1000 m3 (with a mean of 1872 per 1000 m3) during the night and from 23 to 447 per 1000 m3 (with a mean of 136 per 1000 m3) during the day. Night-time drift rates were always higher than those during the day. Drift at Site 2 contained significantly (paired t-test, P<0.01) fewer taxa (means of 11.5 and 7.5 for night and day drifts respectively) than did drift at Sites 1 (means of 16.3 and 10.8) or 3 (means of 15.8 and 10.5). This was attributed to the poor quality of habitat at Site 2, which had extensive silt and slash deposits resulting from clearing during plantation establishment. Thus, comparisons of drift rates of specific taxa were often possible only between Sites 1 and 3.

Both Sites 2 and 3 experienced increased in daytime drift on the day of spraying. On comparison of the differences in daytime drift rates between Sites 1 and 2 before spraying with those after spraying, by t-test (Stewart-Oaten et al. 1986), the mean drift rate of all invertebrates on the day of spraying was significantly greater than that before spraying (P<0.01;). Differences between Sites 1 and 3 were not significant (P>0.05). All sites experienced a decrease in night-time drift rate following the spraying on Day 1, and no differences between sites could be attributed to the spraying (P>0.05, t-tests).

Mean daily drift at Site 2 prior to spraying was 145 individuals per 1000m3 compared with 447 individuals per 1000m3 on the day of spraying. This enhanced drift rate was mainly due to increased drift of dipteran larvae (chironomid and nematocerid larvae) and Coleoptera (elmid adults, helodid larvae) and the occurrence of large ostracods in the drift at a rate of 80 individuals per 1000m3, which were not found on any other occasion at this or other sites. The results of similar tests on Days 2-9 at Site 2 were not significant, nor were they for any day at Site 3. Thus, spraying was associated with increased drift during the 12 h immediately following application, but only at the site that received significant contamination from aerial drifting of herbicide. No such increases were observed for the site downstream on either day of spraying.

No significant impact of the spraying operation was detected for either total night or day drifts when mean drift data for the three sample sets collected prior to spraying were compared with the data from the sample sets collected between two and nine days after spraying (two-factor ANOVA, no significant interaction between time and locality, P>0.1; Underwood 1991). Thus, spraying did not cause a significant change in total drift on the scale of a week.

When this analysis was performed on individual taxa, a significant impact on the night-time drift rates of hydroptylid trichopteran larvae was detected at Site 3 (two-factor ANOVA, significant interaction between time and locality, P<0.001). Mean hydroptylid drift rates increased from 2.0 to 13.2 individuals per 1000 m3 at the lowest site. Similarly, the mean night-time drift rates of hydropsychid trichopteran larvae increased from 8.7 to 20.4 individuals per 1000 m3 at the lowest site. Differences due to spraying were, however, only marginally significant (two-factor ANOVA, significant interaction between time and location, P=0.08), although the trend in drift rate at Site 3 indicated that a response to the spraying was highly likely. No signifcant differences were detected for other taxa, nor were any detected for any taxa during the 9 to 24 days after spraying. Thus, two taxa showed a transient response to atrazine spraying through enhanced drift rates over the week following application.

Benthic invertebrates

Total densities of benthic invertebrates ranged from 510 to 16 300 individuals m-2 over all sites and sampling occasions. Mean densities for Sites 1, 2 and 3 were 4059, 4294 and 2606 individuals m-2, respectively, for the two occasions before spraying and 5295, 6875 and 3905 individuals m-2, respectively, for the two sample sets collected three and eight days after spraying. These differences were not significant, and no differences between densities or relative proportions of taxa before and after spraying could be attributed to the spraying event. There was, therefore, no evidence of a significant change in benthic invertebrate density associated with atrazine contamination at either affected site.

There was no significant change in the number of taxa at Sites 2 or 3 after spraying or between sites (paired t-test, P>0.1), with overall means of 19, 19 and 18 taxa identified at Sites 1, 2 and 3, respectively.

Trout densities

The populations of >=1+ age trout ranged from 34.7 to 48.9, 44.3 to 72.3 and 62.5 to 80 fish per 100 m at Sites 1, 2 and 3, respectively, throughout the entire study. Mean population densities (+-95% confidence limits) were 46.7 +-2.1, 44.3 +-3.2 and 78.7 +-5.8 fish per 100 m at Sites 1, 2 amd 3, repsectively, three weeks before spraying. Densities were 44.5+-3.7, 68.8 +-6.0 and 80+-3.4 fish per 100m, respectively, one week after spraying. The 71% increase in population at Site 2 was significant (t-test, P<0.01) and was sustained over the four months after the spraying event, but the changes in density observed at Sites 1 and 3 were not significant (t-test, P>0.1).

Of the fish marked prior to spraying at Site 1, 59% were recaptured three weeks after spraying. Similarly, 70% and 61% of fish marked at Sites 2 and 3 were recaptured after spraying. These proportions were not significantly different from each other. However, there was a significant difference between the proportions of fish marked after spraying at Sites 1 and 2 (60% and 39%, respectively, x2=4.8, P<0.05) but not between those at Sites 1 and 3 (P>0.1;). The difference between Sites 1 and 2 was also significant in November 1987 but not in December 1987 or February 1988. All sites showed a general declining trend in the proportion of marked fish in the population with time with the exception of Site 2 during the month following spraying. There was, therefore, no evidence of any change in population or in the proportion of marked fish at Site 3 that could be related to the spraying event. There was also no evidence of any change in the overall population of marked fish at Site 2. There was, however, a significant increase in the number of unmarked fish that had migrated into the site, which was sustained over several months.

Trout physiology

Plasma concentrations of protein, chloride and glucose were not significantly affected by the spary event. All mean protein values were within the range 11.8-17.7g L-1, and values for chloride and glucose were within the ranges 127-156 mmol L-1 and 2.48-3.97 mmol L-1, respectively. Mean brain AChE activities were all within the range 7.9-10.7 mmol g -1 min -1. Mean hepatic GSH concentrations were within the range 0.06-0.20 mmol L-1, and mean GST activities were within the range 0.17-0.32 mmol g -1 min -1. All these values are within accepted ranges for normal unstressed trout (Kolvusaari et al. 1981; Hille 1982; Davies 1985; Zinkl et al. 1987). There were no significant changes in values of any parameter after the day of spraying at Sites 2 or 3 when compared with Site 1.

Muscle RNA/DNA values ranged from 1.3 to 3.8. RNA/DNA was correlated with fish weight. A negative correlation was found for fish at uncontaminated sites (Sites 1 and Sites 2 and 3 prior to spraying, r=0.781, n=55, P<0.0001). Data from Sites 2 and 3 for one week and one month after spraying were entirely consistent with this relationship. There was, therefore, no evidence for any decrease in RNA/DNA in trout during the month after spraying, and all fish had normal RNA/DNA values after that time.


Herbicide Residues

In order to make statements about stream contamination from a water quality survey, one must qualify the design of the sampling regime. Both the rationale for choice of study sites or streams and the sampling protocol must be addressed (Burton 1982). Concentrations may fluctuate widely on time scales of days to weeks, and these fluctuations may be related to a range of conditions - time since spraying, frequency of spraying, runoff conditions, and more. The fact that significant relationships were found for these and similar data from Barton and Davies (1993) between atrazine concentrations and parameters deemed likely to affect stream concentrations suggests that the use of single samples provides at least a crude description of concentration trends.

Taking these considerations into account, the present study shows that triazine contamination occurs frequently in streams draining catchments where triazines are used. Contamination occurred more frequently and at higher concentrations with the use of atrazine and simazine in forestry operations than it did in cropped catchments where other triazines were used. This difference may have several causes - seasonal, operational or artefactual. The forest spraying programme is carried out during winter and commences only when soils are at field capacity and the potential for runoff is maximised. In contrast, the agricultural use of triazines occurs primarily in spring and early summer, when runoff events are less frequent.

Operational considerations are also important. Forest spraying is carried out by helicopter with relatively high application rates, in contrast to the ground spraying of triazines on crops. The type of triazine may also influence its mobility in surface water. Atrazine and simazine have water solubilities of 70 and 5 mg L-1 at 20 degrees C, respectively (Vershueren 1983). Cyanazine, propazine and metribuzin have water solubilities ranging from 160 to 1200 mg L-1 (Vershueren 1983; Anon. 1986b). This, together with their octanol-water partition coefficients, indicates that atrazine and simazine are anticipated to be less mobile in surface water than are the other triazines studied.

The differences may also be an artefact of the survey designs because the sampling of plantation streams targeted the day of spraying, when high concentrations were attained frequently. However, the significant differences between plantation and agricultural stream triazine concentrations are maintained even when the data for the day of spraying are removed from the comparison (Mann-Whitney U test, P<0.0001). It should be noted that the agricultural streams studied had numerous dam storages between stream sections, in contrast to the undeveloped streams of the forestry areas. Dam storages and lakes are reported to act as sinks for triazine residues (Buser 1990) and in this case may assist in the reduction of stream contamination.

As expected, the highest triazine concentrations occurred on the day of spraying after aerial application. Rainfall events significantly increased atrazine concentrations in streams both immediately following spraying and after 12 months. This has been reported elsewhere (Smith et al. 1975; Frank and Sirons 1979). The most salient feature, however, was the persistence of atrazine contamination over 12-16 months after spraying. On the basis of concentration, it appears that a typical half-life in the streams studied is in the order of three months, with medians decreasing from 8.1 to 0.3 ug L-1 over 15 months. Other authors have also estimated typical half-lives in water of the order of months (Klassen and Kadoum 1979).

Frank and Sirons (1979), in a study of 11 Ontario agricultural watersheds (mean size 4300 ha), noted that atrazine was found in 80% of streams studied and that 62% of transport was associated with storm runoff, with 22% accounted for by accidental spills. Peak and mean concentrations were 32 and 1.4 ug L-1, respectively. Atrazine was also detected in 4 of 10 sets of stream bottom-sediment samples at concentrations of up to 20 mg kg -1. These results are similar to those found for atrazine in plantation streams in the present study, with the exception of high concentrations found on the day of spraying. McAlpine and Van der Welle (1990), reporting on herbicide concentrations in Western Australian streams following aerial applications of granular formulated atrazine, found atrazine concentrations ranging from 0.8 to 38ug L -1, with contamination being dependent on runoff. Otton (1991) reported mean concentrations of atrazine ranging between 0.07 and 0.53 ug L-1 for rivers in north-western New South Wales during 1990-91, and G. E. Rayment (personal communication) reported detection of atrazine in water and sediments of the Barratta Creeks irrigation district, northern Queensland.

Effects of Herbicides on Biota

Big Creek

The contamination of Big Creek by aerial application of herbicide, with almost maximal aerial drift onto the water surface, represented a 'worst case' for the forest spraying programme,one that happens relatively rarely. The study at Big Creek lacked both replication of treatments and replication through time prior to spraying for the fish and benthic invertebrate data that would be necessary for the statistically valid assessment of pesticide impact (Hurlbert 1984; Stewart-Oaten et al. 1986; Underwood 1991). It does, however, suggest that contamination at concentrations between 1 and 20 ug L-1 for several weeks does not cause major changes in the aquatic fauna. The large influx of trout into Site 2 suggested that trout were disturbed by the spraying event. The lack of a decline in RNA/DNA indicates that this disturbance was insufficient to cause a transient decline in growth rates (Buckley 1979). Some invertebrate taxonomic groups apparently showed a behavioural avoidance response in the drift, but this response was transient. This lack of significant response to atrazine spraying was in marked contrast to responses observed in a similar study of pyrethroid insecticide spraying on a Tasmanian stream in which significant invertebrate mortality was observed (Davies and Cook 1993). It should also be noted that the long-term effects of atrazine contamination on autotrophy were not studied in Big Creek.

Other studies

Of considerable interest is the effect on aquatic fauna of the observed contamination of streams with triazines. This can be satisfactorily examined only if assessments of the duration of exposure to various concentrations in the field are related to studies delineating the effects of such exposures. In this study, we assume that the spot samples were taken relatively randomly through time. This is a reasonable assumption for the atrazine data, where a frequency distribution of sampling dates is spread over 300 days of the year, although with a peak in winter. Thus, an indication of the intensity and frequency of exposure of fauna in plantation streams to atrazine can be tentatively drawn from these data.

Typical responses to atrazine contamination as reported in the literature are shown in Table 4 over different concentration ranges. It appears that concentrations above 100ug L-1 are regarded as having short-term lethal effects on aquatic biota, with a variety of sublethal effects at lower concentrations, particularly above 10-20 ug L-1. Only 8% of samples analysed in this study had concentrations greater than 100 ug L-1, indicating that the potential for lethal effects of atrazine contamination in the streams sampled was relatively low. Chronic effects on aquatic plant communities are likely to be substantially more frequent in these streams, with 26% of samples having concentrations over 10 ug L-1. However, it should be noted that many plantation streams sampled in this study had also been degraded by a variety of inputs of sediment and logging debris during establishment of the plantation, from which they were yet to recover. A combination of such effects would make the detection of the impact of atrazine contamination on the ecology of such streams difficult.

The toxicities of cyanazine, propazine and metribuzin to aquatic fauna are similar to those of atrazine and simazine, although a little lower. Lethal toxicity to invertebrates and fishes occurs in the 1-100 mg L-1 range (Vershueren 1983; Anon. 1988b). Thus, the effects of contamination with these materials on stream biota at the concentration ranges observed in this study are expected to be minimal. It should be noted tht the incidence of high-impact events such as spills has not been examined in this study.


In conclusion, contamination of Tasmanian streams with triazine herbicides is a frequent occurrence wherever they are used. The concentration ranges observed in this study are similar to those described elsewhere, with atrazine residues ranging toward the high end of those reported in the literature. It is also apparent that atrazine may persist in streams for up to 16 months after single spraying events. Concentrations range widely, but significant short-term impacts on stream biota are likely to be infrequent. The data are insufficient to allow comment of long-term effects of low-level contamination on stream communities . . .

12. Victorian Hexazinone Research

Department Conservation and Environment - April 1991
Lands and Forests Technical Report No. 5
Weed control in Radiata Pine plantations by aerial application of granulated hexazinone.

S.R. Elms and H.T.L. Stewart
Forest Products Management Division


Helicopter application of granular hexazinone herbicide (VELPAR ULW) to release Pinus radiata plantations from woody weed competition was studied in an operational trial in Central Gippsland, Victoria, in spring 1989.

Velpar ULW was applied using a Dupont Applicator mounted in a Hiller Aviation UH-12ET helicopter with an effective swath of either 17 m or 21 m, to apply rates of 4kg/ha a.i. or 3 kg/ha a.i. respectively. These rates were delivered from 25m above the tree canopy, at an average ground speed of 63 km/h. A total of 249 ha of plantation aged from 3 to 9 years was treated. Heights of the woody weeds ranged from 1 to 6m.

At the higher rate VELPAR ULW satisfactorily controlled weeds less than 5 m high, particularly Acacia verniciflua, Cassinia spp., Eucalyptus spp., Pteridium esculentim and Leptospernum juniperinum. The lower rate of herbicide released the plantations where weeds were up to 3 m tall. Although control of Acacia dealbata was patcy, there was significant defoliation and mortality of this species where it was less than 3 m high. Acacia mucronata, A. obliquinervia and A. melanoxylon were not satisfactorily controlled by either rate of herbicide.

Streamwater leaving the treated areas was monitored for up to a month following herbicide application. Analysis showed that application of VELPAR ULW at 4kg/ha a.i. did not significantly contaminate streamwater for domestic use, the maximum level of hexazinone detected in streamwater (18.0 ug/L) being only 3% of the maximum level proposed by the National Health and Medical Research Council for drinking water (600 ug/L).

Helicopter application of VELPAR ULW gave precise delivery of herbicide to the target area, as shown by sharp boundaries between dead and unaffected weeds along the buffer zones. . .

Residues Of Hexazinone And Four Of Its Metabolites In Stream Water After Aerial Spraying Of A Pinus Radiata Plantation Near Yarram, Victoria
C. J. Leitch and D. W. Flinn
Australian Forestry., 1983, 46 (2), 126-131


Residues of hexazinone in streamwater were monitored over a nine-week period after helicopter application of the herbicide at a rate of 2 kg ha -1 to a 46.4 ha experimental catchment. The aerial application was made in December 1981 following conversion of a steeply sloping catchment from native forest to Pinus radiata two years previously. Automatic samplers were used to sample streamwater at intervals of 0.25-2.0 h throughout the nine weeks, with the more intensive sampling occurring during and immediately following spraying and during the substantial storm event. A total of 69 representative samples were analysed, and 4 ug L -1 hexazinone only was detected in six of these samples, which was well below the maximum recommended concentration for potable water of 600 ugL -1. Such low residues were attributed to several factors including the way the spraying operation was conducted (with respect to soil moisture, meteorological conditions and droplet size) and the presence of a 30 m wide vegetation reserve on each side of the stream .

Residues of hexazinone in streamwater after aerial application to an experimental catchment planted with radiata pine.
C. J. Leitch and D. W. Flinn
Australian Forestry., 1983, 46 (2), 126-131


This report describes a study of the off-site movement of the herbicide hexazinone (as Velpar L) and four of its metabolites into stream water following an aerial application by the Forests Commission to part of a young Pinus radiata D. Don (radiata pine) plantation in the Yarram Forest District, south-eastern Victoria. The 28 ha study area was sprayed with 4 kg ha -1 hexazinone in November 1980. The spraying was designed to control the woody weed Acacia dealbata Link (silver wattle), which was overtopping the P. radiata. Water draining the study area flows into the Little Albert River, which is seperated from the sprayed block by a 100 m-wide strip of native vegetation.

Two sampling points were established on the Little Albert River, one immediately below the majority of the spray area and the other 4.3 km downstream, above the nearest domestic take-off point. Grab samples of stream water were taken at one to four-hourly intervals before, during and immediately following spraying at both sampling points. During the five weeks samples were collected on the morning after any days during which rain had fallen. The stage height of the stream was measured at each sampling time.

Neither hexazinone nor four of its metabolites were detected in any of the stream water samples at detection limits of 0.05 to 0.07 ppm for hexazinone and metabolite A, and metabolites B, D and E respectively. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends a maximum concentration of 0.6 ppm hexazinone in drinking water. It was concluded that, under the conditions of the study, there was no detectable contamination of the Little Albert River following aerial application of hexazinone.

Whether any stream contamination by hexazinone would have occurred following rainfall in excess of the 91.8 mm measured during the sampling period, cannot be predicted, although the likelihood of this would be minimal, due to its rapid uptake by the weed vegetation, adsorption by soil colloids, and the fact that the vegetation of the downslope buffer strip showed no signs of uptake of hexazinone up to six months after spraying.

13. Briefing paper presented to the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals

November 2001.

Dorothy Bowers - Community NRA liaison person.

Atrazine Briefing Paper

As a result of a call for agenda items for the next CCC meeting the issue of atrazine and other triazine herbicides has arisen from several sources. The major concerns being persistence in the environment, groundwater contamination, and endocrine disruption potential. Atrazine has been linked to diseases such as tumors, breast, ovarian and uterine cancers, leukemia, and lymphoma. The risk of health problems is higher if two triazines are present. Mixtures of other agchemicals and triazines can also create a higher risk of health problems. Atrazine has been banned in seven European countries some of these are Sweden, Germany, Austria, Italy, Netherlands.

European Union move to further restrict or ban atrazine. In France, the Farm Minister has ordered the withdrawal of atrazine and other triazine herbicides claiming they are building up in water supplies
and threatening human health. It is also thought that the triazines were becoming less effective as some weeds have developed resistance to them. The French Food Agency AFSSA found no risk of cancer associated with triazines but that they posed a specific risk to babies and children who they claim should not be given water containing triazines in excess of 0.4 micrograms per litre.

Contamination of Adelaide's water supply with atrazine and hexazinone throughout 1997.

Large quantities of pellets of atrazine and hexazinone were dropped by helicopter on new pine plantations at Mt Crawford Forest, which is close to the Warren Reservoir. Heavy rain was responsible for washing the herbicides into the waterways and eventually it finished up in the Warren Reservoir. Diluted amounts spread into the Barossa and Little Para reservoirs before measures were taken to deal with the contamination. The water had to be treated before it was released for human consumption in townships. Initially, no public notification was given as levels of the herbicides were supposed to be below levels set by NH&NMRC. However, the EPA later issued a public warning after levels of the herbicides were found to be six times
above the NH&MRC guidelines. (www.hancock.forests.org.au) Of major concern is that there were two triazine herbicides present in the same water which could increase the risk of triazine associated health problems. If levels of fertiliser or other agchemicals are also present the combined effect of all contaminants together could equal a significant exposure.

Triazine contamination of Tasmanian drinking water

In Tasmania triazine herbicides are used by all major forestry corporations. They are applied by air as pre-emergent herbicide treatment when preparing land for plantation. Atrazine is water soluble, mobile in soil and persistent for 18 months or more. It has contaminated waterways in the catchment where the spraying has been done.

The community of Lorinna in north-west Tasmania protested about Forestry Commission plans to spray in their catchment in 1993. The Forestry Commission agreed to precautionary measures to protect the Lorinna water supply from contamination:
*Instead of aerial spraying, tractors with boom sprays were used.
*Instead of the usual 10 meter buffer zone along both sides of permanent waterways, a 20m buffer was left unsprayed.

Despite these precautions, over a year later, the Lorinna water supply was still contaminated with Atrazine above EEC guidelines (1ppb).

After spraying in the north east of Tasmania in 1994, water supplies are affected there. The Department of Environment and Land Management has only sampled in areas where there has been public concern about the possibility of water supply contamination, so the statewide level of contamination is unknown. Atrazine is classified as a 2b carcinogen by the WHO and US EPA, and triazine herbicides have been linked with ovarian tumours and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Atrazine is a preferred chemical for controlling weeds for the same reasons that it is a problem for the environment. It is an efficient poison, water soluble, mobile in the soil and persistent for eighteen months or more.

A Tasmanian Study by Barton and Davies, Tasmanian Inland Fisheries Commission for the Tasmanian Forest Research Council 1992 stated 'A major concern with triazine levels is the long-term low levels (1 - 20 micrograms per litre) which could depress stream primary productivity.' (Michael Hogan, Tasmanian Conservation Trust)

Triazine contamination of West Calder (Tas) drinking water.

The following are excerpts from Brenda Rosser's submission to the Waratah-Wynyard Planning Scheme as evidence of their plight at West Calder. Spray drift is causing herbicide contamination of rainwater tanks.

Drinking water contaminated by pesticides.
*Council have on record the incident where 4 household rainwater tanks were found to be contaminated with Simazine in 1997;
*Council are aware that the Department of Environment have refused to perform systematic checking of rural rain water when the evidence clearly pointed to aerial spray drift travelling kilometres as the source of the threat.
*This essentially means that drinking water contamination is continuing because of aerial spraying at 150feet (minimum) using fine nozzle applicators in hot weather. (Dr Mike Raupach of the CSIRO has stated plainly that drift will occur beyond the set buffer zones in the code under those conditions).

Drinking water contamination in other places

Wherever there are forestry areas surrounding water reservoirs e.g. NSW, Victoria there is likely to be atrazine and other herbicide contamination. The use of herbicides in these areas needs to be reassessed and more stringent regulations introduced to ensure that drinking water does not contain levels of agchemicals. In particular, buffer zones for aerial application of pesticides need to be increased.

The US EPA has classified atrazine as a restricted use pesticide (RUP) and restricted its use because of its potential for groundwater contamination. Acceptable levels for atrazine in water have been established at 3
micrograms per litre. Mammary tumors were observed in rats after a lifetime administration of atrazine and US EPA has classified atrazine as a possible human carcinogen.

Atrazine can be absorbed into the bloodstream through oral, dermal and inhalation exposure. EPA has found atrazine has the potential to cause the following adverse health impacts when exposed to above maximum contaminant levels.
*congestion of the heart, lungs and kidneys;
*low blood pressure;
*muscle spasms,
*weight loss;
*damage to adrenal glands.

Long term or life time exposure
*weight loss
*cardiovascular damage
*retinal and some muscle degeneration

Porter Study
PORTER, W E et al. 1999. Endocrine, immune and behavioural effects of aldicarb (carbamate), atrazine (triazine) and nitrate (fertiliser) mixtures at groundwater concentrations. Toxicology & Industrial Health
The paper was the result of five years of research into interactive effects of mixtures of aldicarb, atrazine and nitrate on endocrine, immune and nervous system function. The concentration of these chemicals used in the research was equivalent to current contamination levels found in groundwater across the USA. Testing across several species of rats was done for changes to thyroid hormone levels, ability to make antibodies to foreign proteins and aggression. Endocrine, immune and behavioural changes occurred to doses of mixtures but rarely to single components. This paper also discussed six testing deficiencies of currently registered pesticides and suggested areas of human health concerns if present trends in pesticide use continue. While this study is not large, it raises some very important issues and indicates the need for further research into mixtures of chemicals.

US NIEHS Research
Davis, Devra Lee. 1993. Medical hypothesis: Xenoestrogens as preventable causes of breast cancer. Environmental Health Perspectives 101:372-377.

While genetics accounts for around 30% of cancer cases, total lifetime exposure to xenoestrogens also has a role to play. Compounds such as PAHs, OC's triazine herbicides and pharmaceuticals affect estrogen production and metabolism and can function as xenoestrogens. Many estrogenic compounds have been shown to induce breast cancer and recent epidemiological studies on women with breast cancer showed breast fat and blood lipid levels of some xenoestrogens.

Munger, R et al. 1997. Intrauterine growth retardation in Iowa communities with herbicide contaminated drinking water. Environmental Health Perspectives. 105:308-314.

A statewide survey of 856 municipal drinking water supplies in 1986-1987 revealed that the Rathbun rural water system was found to contain elevated levels of triazine herbicides. Rates of low birth weight, prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation in live births during the period 1984-1990 by women living in 13 communities served by the Rathbun water system were compared to other communities of similar size.
The Rathbun communities were shown to have a greater risk of intrauterine growth retardation than the other communities that had different sources of drinking water. Levels of the herbicides atrazine, metolachlor and cyanazine were each predictors of community intrauterine growth retardation in southern Iowa after allowing for things like maternal smoking and socioeconomic variables. The association for intrauterine growth retardation was strongest for atrazine.

Arbuckle, T E et al. 2001. An exploratory analysis of the effect of pesticide exposure on the risk of spontaneous abortion in an Ontario farm population. Environmental Health Perspectives 109(8): 851-857

The toxicity of mixtures of chemicals is unknown - especially how mixtures of pesticide products may affect fetal toxicity. The Ontario Farm Family Health Study collected data on various factors. Women provided information on pregnancies, including spontaneous abortions. Moderate increases in risks for early abortions were observed for preconception exposures to phenoxy acetic acid herbicides, triazine herbicides, other miscellaneous herbicides. Elevated risks for late abortions were associated with preconception exposure to glyphosate, thiocarbamates, and the miscellaneous class of pesticides. Post conception exposures were generally associated with late spontaneous abortions. Older maternal age (34 plus yrs) was the strongest risk factor for spontaneous abortions along with interactions between pesticides in this age group.

The triazine group of herbicides should be banned or severe restrictions imposed on their use near waterways, water storage areas and domestic dwellings that have rain water tanks.

Dorothy M. Bowes
November 2001


Town has herbicide in water by Danny Rose 18 June 2004

The Health Department says Campbell Town’s drinking water is safe, despite the discovery of a toxic herbicide. Tests done by the plantation division of forestry company Gunns Ltd have shown a minute level of simazine upstream from where the town draws its water.

Residents were alerted in a letter sent from Northern Midlands late last month, which also labelled the find as "insignificant".

The Greens raised the discovery in State Parliament yesterday, and called for further investigation by Health Minister David Llewellyn. Green MHA for Lyons Tim Morris said some residents still held concerns. It is understood simazine is used in the management of plantations in the Lake Leake catchment area, where the town’s water supply is drawn.

Water quality is monitored by Gunns as part of a deal struck with council. "The contamination of drinking water with simazine and atrazine has been a controversial issue over the past decade in Tasmania," Mr Morris said yesterday. "At one stage drinking water was trucked into Derby when it was found forestry spraying had contaminated the water supply. "Campbell Town residents need to know whether the Health Department was notified of this, and whether further testing has been undertaken to determine what levels of simazine were in the water supply."

Director of Public Health Rosco Taylor said he was told of the discovery yesterday. He said there was no risk to residents according to council figures. "But I am seeking more details from the Northern Midlands Council to confirm this information," he said.

Retesting shows Orford drinking water 'safe' ABC News Online 4/9/04

A council on Tasmania's east coast has given an assurance that Orford's drinking water is safe. Routine sampling by the Glamorgan/Spring Bay council had raised concerns about herbicide contamination.

Early last month, the herbicide, simazine, was detected in a sample from Orford in concentrations higher than the guidelines for safe drinking water. The public health director, Roscoe Taylor, asked the council to take more samples several days later. "The result cam back at under the guideline value at 0.4 parts per billion," Mr Taylor said.

The Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor, Cheryl Arnol, says the council is happy to abide by a request from Mr Taylor to take extra samples after heavy rainfall. "Whatever it takes to provide good clean potable water, it's a cost that council has to face," she said.

The Department of Primary Industries, Water and the Environment is carrying out further tests upstream in the Prosser River, and will look at local spraying practices.

Toxic chemical poisoning Snowy: farmer

By Rossylyn Beeby Research, Conservation and Science Reporter Wednesday, 6 October 2004.Canberra Times

The Snowy River catchment is likely to have been contaminated by high levels of toxic herbicides used to control weeds on pine plantations, according to a local farmer and Landcare committee chairman.

Addressing ANU Forestry students, Gippsland grazier Robert Belcher said atrazine and pyrethhoids had been used for more than 30 years to control weeds in pine plantations on the southern Monaro.

He said anecdotal evidence from local spraying contractors indicated herbicides were frequently used at high-strength levels that exceeded legally prescribed safety levels.

"Atrazine has contaminated most of the rivers and streams that flow into the Snowy. We have seen massive fish kills and in some cases, everything in the river has died," he said. "I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use chemicals but I think you should be starting to get a bit suspicious about how safe they are."

Studies in the United States and Europe claim the herbicide is linked to prostate cancer, reproductive problems and hormone imbalances. It has been proved to cause sexual abnormalities in frogs and also cited as a likely cause of an overall global decline in frog populations.

Mr Belcher told The Canberra Times urgent public meetings were being organised at Delegate and Bombala to discuss the health impacts of atrazine and other herbicides.

He said the rural settlement of Craigie had experienced a high number of cancer deaths in recent years and locals believed these deaths were linked to atrazine. "Eight people from Craigie have died from cancer in the last five to ten years, and that figure does not include people suffering from prostate or breast cancer.

"We know it is still being used by forestry operators in the area - it has a very distinctive smell," he said.

Tasmanian farmer David Reid obtained documents under Freedom of Information on the extent of herbicide use in Tasmania’s forestry industry and recently gave copies of relevant documents to Mr Belcher and to the Canberra Times. One scientific report published in 1994 stated atrazine contamination from a single forestry operation persisted in streams at low levels for up to 16 months.

The report, by Tasmania’s Inland Fisheries Commission, also says rainfall causes significant increases in atrazine concentrations in creeks and streams, and concludes that contamination of Tasmania’s streams by herbicides is a "frequent occurrence wherever they are used".

In August, Delegate residents travelled to Canberra to express concerns to federal politicians over tax relief investment in pine plantations.

The group met senior politicians, Cabinet ministers and one of the Prime Minister’s senior advisers to outline their opposition to the expansion of pine plantations in the region. They claim managed investment schemes are driving an expansion of private forestry plantations, with scant regard for preservation of native grasslands, bushfire management and water catchment protection.

South Melbourne based company Willmot forests manages 16,000ha of pine plantations in the Delegate and Bombala regions. The company could not be contacted last night but has previously stated that it was a major employer and injected $9.9 million directly into the region last year.

Mr Belcher, chair of the Snowy River Landcare committee for the past 14 years, believes forestry herbicide use should be a key political consideration for Eden-Monaro residents in this weekend’s election.

"I don’t know how you can talk about that sort of chemical use and expect to see this planet operating in another thousand years."

Ecotoxoicity of Mix Contaminants: Effects of Copper and Atrazine Combination on Soil Biota (International Contaminated Site Remediation Conference Adelaide 15-18 September 2004)

Megnaraj, M., Krishnamurti, G.S.R., Chen, Z., Owens, G and Naidu, R. Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, SA 5095, Australia.

1. Introduction

Most of the published literature on ecotoxicology deals with single contaminants. However, the reality is that contaminants exist as mixtures and the toxicity due to mixed contaminants can be totally different and more severe than single contaminants. The effects of heavy metal and pesticide pollution on soil biota with the exception of soil algae have been extensively studied particularly in relation to either pesticides or heavy metals alone. Although inorganic and organic pollutants are present simultaneously in many soils, literature on their combined effects on soil biota is very scant. Elevated levels of copper (Cu) in soils due to agricultural, industrial and municipal activities has been reported. On the other hand, atrazine (6-chloro-N-ethyl-N-isopropyl-1,3,5-triazine-2,4-diamine), is one of the most widely used herbicides globally to control annual grass and broad-leaved weeds in various crops and forestry. Hence, Cu and atrazine are likely to occur in combination in many agricultural soils. The objective of this study is to assess the bioavailability and associated non-target effects of atrazine and Cu alone and in combination towards the soil biological health and its rate of recovery.

2. Materials and Methods

Soil was collected from an arable fallow agricultural field in the Cookeplains region, South Australia. The important physico-chemical characteristics of the soil include pH 7.2 (1:4 soil:water ratio); maximum water holding capacity (WHC), 22%; total carbon, 0.8%; total nitrogen, 0.09%; fine sand, 46.2%; coarse sand, 45.1%; silt, 0.8%, caly, 8%. The toxicity of atrazine and copper (Cu) alone and in combination towards the algal populations, microbial biomass and enzymatic activities were determined in soil microcosms (Megharaj et al., 1999a,b) spiked with filter sterilized aqueous solutions of atrazine and Cu (as copper sulfate). Also the effect of Cu on persistence of atrazine in the soil was determined. Dehydrogenase activity in the soil was determined following the methods of Casida et al. (1964). The activities of phosphatase and B-glucosidase were determined according to Tabatabai (1982). Atrazine was extracted with 90% acetonitrile in water from soil, was determined by HPLC. The water extractable and exchangeable Cu (ammonium nitrate extractable) in the soil was determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The toxicity of Cu and atrazine in soil solution was determined by algal (Chlorococcum sp.) growth assay (Megharaj et al., 2000). The speciation of Cu in soil solution was calculated with MINTEQA2/PRODEFA model.

3. Results and Discussion

All the tested concentrations of both atrazine (1-50mg kg -1 soil) and copper (5-200 mg kg -1 soil) caused a large reduction on the viable counts of algae, the decrease being dose dependent. Thus, the percent inhibition of algal population in all treatments ranged between 53 and 26 compared to the untreated soil. There was nearly a 53% inhibition of algal population even at 1 and 5 mg kg -1 soil of atrazine and copper respectively. Soil microorganisms and their biochemical activities are extremely important in nutrient cycling and energy flow in the ecosystems. Dehydrogenase activity (an intracellular enzyme), a useful indicator of overall microbial activity in soils has been recommended to measure the side effects of agricultural chemicals in soils (Gerber et al., 1991). Applications of atrazine and copper alone up to 5 mg kg-1 soil had no effect on the dehydrogenase activity whereas the combination of 2 mg atrazine kg-1 and 5 mg Cu kg-1 had a slight inhibitory effect. The higher applications of atrazine (10-50 mg kg-1 soil) and Cu (10-100 mg kg-1 soil) affected greater inhibition of dehydrogenase activity of the soil. Interestingly, phophatase was only marginally inhibited by the higher application rates of atrazine (50 mg kg-1 soil) and Cu (>50 mg-kg -1 soil), whereas glucosidase was unaffected by all the treatments. The results of this study indicate that soil algae and dehydrogenase activity in soil can serve as sensitive indicators of pollution. Autoclaving the soil (control) increased the persistence of atrazine indicating the involvement of microorganisms in the disappearance of atrazine. Application of copper up to 10 mg Cu kg -1 soil increased the persistence of atrazine (2 mg kg -1 soil in soil). However, 50mg Cu kg-1 soil increased the persistence of atrazine by 3 -fold over the soil not spiked with copper. This clearly indicates the negative effect of Cu on the degradation of atrazine presumably by killing the microorganisms responsible for atrazine degradation in soil. This result has major implications to soils that are co contaminated with Cu and organic pesticides.

The solution phase concentration of Cu and its speciation in the soil solution in relation to the toxicity and bioavailability as determined by the algal bioassay will be discussed in detail.


Casida LE, Llien D, Santore T (1964) Soil Science 98, 371-376.

Megharaj M, Singleton I, Kookana R, Naidu R (1999) Soil Biol Biochem 31, 1549-1553.

Megharaj M, Singleton I, McClure NC, Naidu R (2000) Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 38: 439-445

Tabatabai MA (1982) Methods of soil Analysis, part 2. Chemical and microbiological properties. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, pp 903-948.

Oyster deaths prompt health concerns Tuesday, 26 October 2004 ABC Radio

There are concerns about the quality of drinking water at Smithton in Tasmania's north-west. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) wants tests done immediately, after the discovery that more than 50,000 oysters have died in Duck Bay. The AMA's Tasmanian president, Michael Aizen, has been pushing for a ban on aerial spraying since thousands of oysters died on the east coast earlier this year.

Dr Aizen says the State Government should be reacting quickly to the latest event. "Public health has to be called in for extensive testing and there has to be a survey of disease patterns," he said. "Firstly to get baseline information as to the current health profile and secondly to identify any possible abnormalities in terms of cancers or other illnesses."

10 September 2002 Simazine Testing Rocky River, Murrungower (Orbost Water Supply East Gippsland, Victoria)

Letter to Harris Daishowa

"As discussed with you, the initial tests (4th June 2002 pre-spraying) returned a result of <0.02ug/L however, Simazine was detected at a level of 0.2ug/L in the post spraying sample taken on 7th August 2002... Given that the sampling program was limited to a single standard before and after spraying events and no further investigations had been undertaken upstream of your site or at sites inbetween Murrungower and our offtake, it can only be assumed that the source of contamination was the spraying activity..."

Plantation chemical risk By VANESSA BURROW October 21, 2004 Warrnambool Standard

Otway Ranges November 2004: Midway Plantations in the Charleys Creek catchment. Note lack of buffers. Charleys Creek lies in the Gellibrand Water Catchment which supplies drinking water to 50,000 people in Victoria's south west.

PLANNED blue gum plantations on the flood plains of the Gellibrand River have local residents up in arms, concerned that chemicals could leech into the south-west's water supply.

A planning application before the Colac/Otway Shire for about 200 hectares of blue gums would add to an already existing plantation of more than 300 hectares on Chapple Creek in the Lower Otways.

The plantations conform to regulations that require buffer zones between the new trees and water ways but in a major flood the areas can become inundated to depths of two or three feet.

A local resident, who would not be named, said he was concerned for the health of the river and water reticulated to Warrnambool and surrounds by South West Water from the Gellibrand River pumping stations.

In a worst-case scenario, herbicides and pesticides used by the Geelong-based plantation owner Midway could contaminate the water supply, he said. "Natural bush is fine but a plantation that gets sprayed with chemicals - then we have a worry," the man said.

According to the resident, the area intended to be planted with blue gums experienced at least one flooding each year.

Midway's resource development manager Jim Knott said the company was accredited under the Australian Forestry standards and regularly checked water quality around plantations. The company used Roundup and Eucmix preplant herbicides to destroy weeds about three months before trees were planted in winter. After the initial application of herbicides, chemicals were used only for spot weed control where necessary and had little residue because of a short active life span, Mr Knott said.

South West Water's chief executive officer Russell Worland said the company expected blue gum plantations would conform with the forestry code of practice. "That would require that they manage the development of the forest having regard to its location and the possibility that parts of the land may be subject to flooding," he said.

"We understand that the degradable nature of Roundup allows for its application in water catchment areas." During winter flooding periods, South West Water did not draw significant volumes of water from the Lower Otways, but sourced water from a catchment area high in the Otway Ranges, Mr Worland added.

"South West Water has recently upgraded its water testing regime so that we are testing far wider across a range of possible contaminants."

Corangamite Catchment Management Authority flood plain and drainage team leader Tony Jones said two planning applications for blue gum plantations were being considered. "We have received calls from concerned citizens and we will do all we can to safeguard (the waterways) and make sound recommendations to the council about the applications," he said.

Midway owns about 16,000 hectares of plantations in Victoria.

Otway Ranges November 2004: Midway Plantations in the Charleys Creek catchment. Note lack of buffers. Charleys Creek lies in the Gellibrand Water Catchment which supplies drinking water to 50,000 people in Victoria's south west.

Water Bore Fears by Terry Sim On the Land The Standard Nov 4, 2004 P1

Hawkesdale district farmers claim increasing irrigation - or blue gum plantations - could be causing stock bore levels to drop by six to 11 metres during peak demand periods.

At a meeting of the Hawkesdale branch of the Victorian Farmers Federation last week, they called for better monitoring of irrigation and stock bores and more test bores in the area.

President Roger Learmouth said the branch did not have proof of local interference between bores. But farmers were concerned about the number of irrigation licences which have been granted in the area and the impact on stock and domestic users. SRW deputy chief executive Graham Hawke told the meeting he would provide data from test bores in the Tarrone area and that the Department of Sustainability planned to do a groundwater research assessment of the district.

Tarrone farmer Bill Stanford has been lobbying Southern Rural Water and authorities over falling bore levels in the area. He recently lost a Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal case objecting to an irrigation licence for a Spencers Road dairy farm.

Mr Stafford said district farmers were taking water from a low-yielding aquifer which he and others believed was being over-utilised, and water levels in new and old stock bores had dropped. The water level in one bore on his property sunk in 1996 has dropped by up to 11 metres from autumn to late summer.

"There is not enough water there for everybody," he said.

"To us it just seems to be too much of a coincidence.

"We have never had any problems with these bores in the previous 50 years."

Farmers had not dramatically increased stock numbers and the only major water demand changes in the area had been the number of large irrigation licences granted and the planting of blue gums, Mr Stafford said.

"We need more test bores and monitoring of irrigation bores." Mr Stafford said he would approach the Minister for Water, John Thwaites, on the issue.

The area where farmers believe irrigation bores or blue gums could be affecting supply is west and north of the declared Yangery Groundwater Supply Protection Area.

Yangery aquifer groundwater usage has varied from 45-49 per cent of the allocations over the past two years. Allocations total 8427 mega litres and the aquifer’s permissible annual volume is 11,500 mega litres.

Mr Hawke said yesterday that SRW had asked DSE at least 12 months ago to look at declaring a new groundwater management area in the area or at extending the Yangery GSPA.

He recently received a commitment from DSE that the department intended to accelerate a planned resource assessment of the area. Any resource assessment would also include the impact of blue gum plantations or other land use changes, Mr Hawke said.

He said there was anecdotal evidence of fluctuating bore levels in stock and domestic bores near blue gum plantations on hot, windy days.

Gum Blues by Glen Bernoth The Standard Nov 6, 2004 P1

Simpson, Timboon and Cobden communities fear their towns are slowly dying as the number of dairy farms sold to blue gum plantation companies nears 40.

The dairy-rich Heytesbury district will soon resemble its pre-settlement days when 44,000 hectares of bush rendered the land agriculturally useless, according to forecasts.

In a special by The Standard, farmers, politicians, town progress associations and schools fear blue gums are sounding the death knell for the district. Already school enrolments are well down, teachers have been laid-off, businesses are felling the squeeze and the local MP’s office is inundated by concerned residents.

"Blue gums are certainly affecting our enrolment. Absolutely we’ve lost families because of the blue gums," Timboon P12 School principal Bryan Ward said.

Simpson farmer Rob Leishman has calculated the economy in the southern part of the Corangamite Shire is already between $70-80 million worse off each year.

"The world is short of food and here we are planting good dairy country out in trees," he said. "When I go to heaven, I want to come back as a white ant because that’s all that will be left to eat - wood." Mr Leishman is so concerned for the future of his family he has organised a public meeting to be held at the Simpson Hall at 8pm on November 19.

Timboon resident Alan Kerr predicted 400 people will be there - such is the widespread concern in the area. Member for the Western Province John Vogels MLC and Polwarth MP Terry Mulder will also be there. They both said the issue threatened the social fabric of the area.

The issue gained prominence with a variety of the region’s stakeholders, such as the Corangamite and Glenelg Hopkins catchment management authorities. Together with the co-operation of others, they are in the final stages of a research project into the impact of blue gum plantations on ground and surface water.

Corangamite Shire has organised a workshop on November 16 with relevant groups in an effort to open up lines of communication.

Farmer sad to see dairy land go by Glen Bernoth The Standard Nov 6, 2004 p1

Peter Harkin soil his dairy herd in June this year, but said he could never watch his farming property at Paaratte turned into a blue gum plantation.

Instead, Mr Harkin diversified into beef cattle and continues to work the family farm. He said he could understand dairy farmer’s frustrations at continued poor returns, but personally made a decision never to sell to a blue gum plantation company.

"It must be very hard for a farmer to sell their farm and know it is going into trees - to just walk away and know it’s going back to bush - I couldn’t do it," he said.

"I’ve got a lot of friends who have got out of dairying and some of those have gone into trees, which is their decision. "Blue gums give farmers an option to sell - a lot of farms have been on the market for quite a while. "If you look at the upside, farmers who want to sell their property get a good, or reasonable, price for it.

"The downside is we’re losing families from the district and businesses are going to suffer - vets, stock agents, machinery dealers … "If families leave, there’s schools and hospitals as well. It’s the whole community. "It will be to the detriment of the community if more and more farmers sell to the trees - it already is to the detriment. "I went to price a car recently and the first thing the bloke said to me was that he was going to have to think about putting staff off soon if more farmers left."

Mr Harkin said the reality was, if the dairy industry was paying farmers fairer milk prices the properties timber companies were buying would never be on the market.

"I would suggest, if a tree company can afford to come in and buy good dairy land, then the land is too cheap, which is reflective of the price of milk over five or six years," he said.


Warrnambool Standard - On the Land 11/11/04 Chemical fears

Blue gums sprayed close to waterways By Terry Sim

Herbicides have been sprayed on blue gum plantation land within metres of streams through the Otway catchment and in flood-prone areas, prompting a call by concerned farmers for improved practices, water quality, soil and fish testing.

Farmers in the area have collected evidence indicating forestry company Midway had earlier this year helicopter-sprayed a former dairy farm, once owned by the Meade family on the Tomahawk Creek, with a mix of herbicides including Eucmix, glyphosate, metsulfuron-methyl, simazine, clopyralid and terbacil.

Midway resource development manager Jim Knott confirmed yesterday the range of herbicides was used by the company. Only registered and required herbicides for specific weeds were used, he said.

Kennedy's Creek farmer Andrew Bone said pre-planting spraying has been done on a Midway plantation - formerly Mahoney's farm - alongside Chapple and Skinner creeks, which lead into the Gellibrand River above a pumping station supplying water to Warrnambool. Blue gums had also been planted by Midway on sprayed areas on another farm - Sadler's farm - close to Kennedy's Creek, which also flows into the Gellibrand River.

Mr Bone is concerned about water quality for consumers, the possibility of spray drift and the Gellibrand River status as one of the best blackfish streams in Victoria.

South West Water chief executive officer Russell Worland said the authority required Midway to have an eight-metre cultivation buffer from permanent streams under an environmental management and forest practices plan for the Mahoney farm. Machinery activity must be minimal and not occur within five metres of the edge of a permanent stream. Mr Knott said Eucmix was not used on Mahoney's farm.

The manufacturer's safety directions for Eucmix, which contains Terbacil and sulfometuron methyl, state it should not be applied within 60 metres of a recognised waterway or dam, or further if native riverbank vegetation may be damaged.

Macspred, the Ballarat manufacturer of Eucmix , said the chemical was dangerous to aquatic life and also should not be applied within 20 metres of a well, sink hole, intermittent or perennial stream, nor used on leached, waterlogged, saturated or sandy soils. It should also not be applied to bare ground on slopes with gradients exceeding 30 per cent. Simazine is a triazine chemical which has been implicated in the contamination of Tasmanian streams. Mr Bone believes some of the slopes on the former Meade dairy farm on Tomahawk Creek Road area greater than 30 degrees.

Mr Knott said the Meade farm did not require a planning permit or environmental management plan overseen by SWW. But the company applied an internal environmental checklist compliant with Australian Forestry Standards which ensured the plantation was established in an environmentally sustainable way. Varying buffer distances were required under the standards.

Friends of the Earth forest network campaigner Anthony Amis said simazine was a possible carcinogen, a groundwater contaminant, developmental and reproductive toxin and suspected endocrine disruptor. Terbacil is a potential groundwater contaminant and a developmental or reproductive toxin, he said. "It could remain in the soil for hundreds of days meaning any flood occurring where the bluegums are established months after spraying will still have terbacil residues", he said.

Mr Amis said sulfometuron methyl was a potential groundwater contaminant and could be very residual in cooler climates. Clopyralid was a potential groundwater contaminated with very high toxicity. If buffer zones were minimal, then there was a higher risk of sedimentation of creeks and water pollution from spraying. especially if it was aerial spraying, Mr Amis said. "If they mix the chemicals together you can get a synergistic effect making the concoction potentially more toxic. "Gellibrand is a major plantation hot spot with steep slopes and very lax environmental guidelines."

Some of the blue gum streamside plantings of concern are managed by Midway for Macquarie Alternative Assets, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Macquarie Bank Group.

Blue Gum Plantation Chemical Fears Warrnambool Standard - On the Land 11/11/04

Midway doing own water testing By Terry Sim

Forestry company Midway is doing its own water quality testing after spraying blue gum plantation areas with chemicals in the Gellibrand valley - the catchment for Warrnambool's water, South West Water chief executive officer Russell Worland said this week.

When asked if the authority was monitoring the water quality in streams around the new blue gum plantations, he said SWW required Midway to implement a regime of water sampling after spraying on some sites and supply results to the authority. But SWW does not monitor specifically how, when or where the water testing is done.

Midway resource development manager Jim Knott said the company did not do water testing on every site, but testing done in one plantation in the area this year had indicated no chemical spillage into waterways. "We behave in an environmentally responsible way."

Friends of the Earth forestry network plantation campaigner Anthony Amis said results could be determined by when samples were taken. The best times were an hour after spraying and after rainfall when run-off occurred.

Mr Worland said SWW had upgraded its water conditions monitoring to quarterly testing and had sampled water in Gellibrand valley two weeks ago. But results from this testing and from Midway tests were not available.

Mr Worland was asked if he was confident that the planning provisions outlined in environmental management and forest practices plans were adequate to maintain water quality for SWW consumers. He said the forestry code of practice was designed to protect the health of waterways beside new forestry developments. But, given the growth of plantations in the Heytesbury area, SWW is referring the issue of chemical impact on water quality to the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority "to be more assured that the elements of the code gives our customers proper protection".

Mr Worland said the SWW was a referral authority for planning purposes in the Gellibrand valley and directly involved with formulating the environmental management plan for plantation companies. The Colac-Otway Shire was the responsible planning authority. When asked if the Environment Protection Authority had final responsibility for the quality of the catchment's water, Mr Worland said SWW would also be seeking clarification of the EPA's role.

On the Land was referred to the Department of Sustainabilty and Environment when it asked the Colac-Otway Shire if it was monitoring water quality and chemical spraying around the plantations. But Colac Otway Shire general manager, planning and environment, Ron Mildren, said he had no comment in relation to chemical use issues "indicating that the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of council".

Mr Amis said the Colac Otway Shire had told him in 2002 that plantation companies were not required to advise either council or the Department of Natural Resources and Environment when spraying would occur. State Government farm forestry officers at Colac and CCMA officials were not available for comment.

An EPA spokesman said the authority had been approached about chemical spraying in the Otways but had not had an official complaint. It needed to be informed of specific incidents but did not monitor spraying activity he said. "EPA's Pollution Watch Line number is 1800 444 004. As I said on the phone, if people have concerns with pollution related to an agricultural spraying incident, they should contact us as soon as they can."

Dead end on blue gum issue 300 at meeting but not all satisfied by Vanessa Burrow

The Standard, Monday, November 22, 2004 - p3

A seeming dead end has been reached in discussions about blue gum plantations in the Heytesbury region after a well-attended public meeting in Simpson.

Organisers of Friday night's meeting, which was attended by about 300 people, said the gathering achieved its aim to inform the community about the timber industry in the region.

Some dairy farmers and residents of Corangamite towns, however, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the meeting's focus.

Incumbent Corangamite Councillor Evan Savage said the meeting was positive because forestry companies had shown themselves to be willing to communicate with the Heytesbury community. "I really don't think the tree companies have done as well as the gas companies in letting people know what was going on and they needed to do better," he said. "I think (people) had their questions answered about trees, especially from timber companies, which is really what the night was about."

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria central councillor Nick Reynard was reserved in his praise for the meeting. "I thought it went well for some people but I think there's a fair bit of angst in the community," Mr Renyard said.

Cooriemungle dairy farmer Ross Powell said the meeting was a credit to the organisers but it did not present any real answers on the effect of bluegums on the local economy. The arguement that more plantations were needed to address Australia's trade deficit did not make sense to him, he said. "The dairy industry exports about $3.5 billion a year which is credited to the balance of trade and provides employment to thousands of Victorians," Mr Powell said. "If the timber companies take over dairying land there's going to be less dairy products produced and exported ... you're robbing Paul to pay Peter. "The timber industry (representatives) at the meeting never touched on what they could do for the community."

Simon Trotter, who employs five people at Timboon Plumbing, had a similar view about what was achieved on Friday night. "I was a bit disappointed with the meeting to be honest," he said. "I would have liked to see more information about the effect on the population base. "I thought that was let go through to the keeper a bit. "There will probably be a fair bit of disquiet in the community."

Meeting organiser and dairy farmer Rob Leishman said he was still concerned for the Heytesbury region and its economic viability following Friday night's meeting. "The big problem is that the dairy industry needs another 12 months of better prices before people get back on track and by that time there could be good dairy country gone," he said. "It's up to the Government to look very seriously (at) whether they want the dairy industry to keep going or not."

Weekly Times 24 Nov 2004 p1 Dairy industry fears spread of plantations

Tree Alarm by Monica Jackson

The sale of thousands of hectares of prime dairy land in Victoria's south-west to the plantation industry has alarmed dairy leaders.

As farmers continue their exodus from the industry, milk companies warn that the loss of suppliers could hurt their ability to meet future world demand.

Farmers are selling up as poor milk prices and rising costs take their toll. But what has alarmed dairy companies is the exodus from Victoria's south-west, which is considered the richest dairying country in Australia.

Dairy farmers, company leaders, timber industry representatives and local politicians packed a hall at Simpson near Colac last week to discuss the spread of plantations on prime dairy land.

The meeting was called to address farmer concerns about the impact of:

*Fewer dairy farms on local businesses, towns and rural communities, hospitals and schools.

*The effect of widespread use of pesticides and herbicides by the plantations on streams and waterways.

*Having plantations as neighbours, especially in relation to weed and pest control and increased fire risk.

*Government taxation concessions granted to plantation investors.

The meeting drew a number of concerned dairy power brokers, including Bonlac chairman Noel Campbell and managing director Bruce Donnison, Murray Goulburn chairman Ian MacAulay and Warrnambool Cheese and Butter managing director John McLean.

Mr McLean told the meeting that dairy companies did not have the right to tell farmers what to do with their land. "But in the not too distant future, world demand (for Australian dairy product) will outstrip what we can provide," he said.

The meeting was organised by Simpson dairy farmer Rob Leishman, who said he was alarmed at the rate of dairy farm sales to plantations, especially in the Heytesbury settlement, south of Colac.

Mr McLean told the meeting the region was the dairy industry's "shining light". While dairy farmers in northern Victoria struggled with water problems, and Gippsland farmers battled with pressures from urban sprawl, Victoria's south-west was ideal for further dairy growth, he said. "We forecast a production increase here of between 7 and 10 per cent and many people made substantial investments in the industry," he said.

Mr McLean said the industry acknowledged that the past two years had been tough for farmers. He said the past six months had brought a major turnaround in demand for dairy products, especially cheese, from markets such as Japan and China. "We're concerned as an industry to lose any farmers, from this region particularly," he said.

Mr McLean said the companies were doing everything possible to improve the situation. He said the heads of Murray Goulburn, Tatura Milk, Bonlac and Warrnambool Cheese and Butter had met on three occasions in the past two months to discuss how post-farmgate savings could be achieved.

Farmers said they were also concerned about the impact of plantations on farms.

Resources manager Jim Knott, of plantation company Midway, said his company used a wide variety of herbicides but each was aimed at a specific weed and all were heavily regulated.

Mr Knott said the company did not intend using insecticides or fungicides in the region. "We test stream water. We don't have to by law, but we do it anyway," he said.

Mr Knott said the company was keen to make and keep assurances to farmers that the two industries can co-exist. "We desperately want to be good neighbours and prove ourselves," he said.

Farmers who spoke to The Weekly Times after the meeting said the real social, economic and environmental impact of the plantations had not been addressed.

Even meeting organiser Rob Leishman was far from satisfied with the results of the meeting. "Thank Christ, Henry Bolte (the Premier who opened up the Heytesbury Settlement in the 1950s for dairying) is not hanging from the rafters. He wouldn't be too happy with what's happening here," Mr Leishman said.

Pastures vanishing By Monica Jackson Weekly Times 24 Nov 2004

An estimated 80,000 ha of land has been transformed into bluegum plantations in Victoria in the past three years and the timber industry is hungry for more land.

According to the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria will have a plantation estate of more than 750,000 ha within 15 years if the current rate of planting continues.

There are 28 forestry investment companies operating in the state with the blessing - and some would say generous taxation concessions - of the Federal and State governments.

Both levels of government have endorsed the Plantations for Australia: the 2020 Vision plan which has a target of trebling the country's plantations to three million hectares. The scheme aims to overcome the annual $2 billion trade deficit caused by Australia sourcing forest products from overseas.

Editorial 24 Nov 2004 The Weekly Times Plantations can't go unchecked

Timber plantations continue their inexorable march across the Victorian landscape.

But rather than take up marginal land, timber companies have been moving into the richest land in Australia - the dairying region of Victoria's south-west.

It is a sign of the desperate times faced by the dairy men and women of this state that they can be persuaded to sell up and leave their community.

Dairy company leaders are saying the large number of dairy farms being sold to plantations could jeopardise the industry's ability to fill export contracts. But they cannot guarantee better prices in the future. And the farmers who are leaving cannot be blamed.

Falling milk prices, two of the dairy industry's toughest seasons and a rising dollar have caused ongoing pain throughout the industry. For many farmers, the good money being paid by plantation companies is their only chance to recoup some money after a lifetime of struggle and hard work.

It begs the question: if dairy farmers cannot prosper in the richest dairy region in Australia, where can they?

And what about the farmers who remain? They deserve answers to pressing questions about the impact of the change in land use.

How will the transition from dairy to timber plantations affect their local communities, businesses, schools and hospitals? And is co-existence with the plantations possible?

In an attempt to rectify Australia's trade deficit, governments of all persuasions have encouraged the expansion of timber plantations.

But what controls do they have over the plantations' use of pesticides and herbicides?

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence, especially from Tasmania, about water contamination, concerns about aerial spraying and lack of accountability from plantation owners.

Victorian farmers need to be assured the same does not occur here.But the evidence appears to be contrary.

At a packed meeting organised by concerned farmers in Simpson last week, a plantation official admitted that there was no law forcing the compant to test for herbicide residue. He said the company did so anyway.

Comments like this reinforce farmers' view that plantations are a law unto themselves.

Farmers left the meeting frustrated at the lack of information provided.

The timber industry is adding another stress to an already struggling community in south-west Victoria. The farmers deserve answers.

Town set for insecticide, Greens say by Claire Konkes

December 6, 2004. The Mercury p11

Geeveston residents have been told Forestry Tasmania plans to spray the same insecticide linked to massive oyster deaths on Tasmania's East Coast, the Greens said yesterday.

Greens environment spokesman Nick McKim said residents on New Rd were told the insectide Dominex would be aerially sprayed by Forestry Tasmania in the coming weeks.

He said aerially spraying the pesticide threatened public drinking water and major aquaculture operations in the Huon area.

Mr McKim said even the State Government's report into the St Helens oyster kill-off confirmed the oysters were killed by more than just fresh water after heavy rains. "The Percival Report called for a full audit of chemical use in Tasmanian water catchments, but the Government has put the whole issue into the too-hard basket," Mr McKim said.

The chemical alpha-cypermethrin (marketed as Dominex) is considered highly toxic to fish. Neighbours next to five forestry coupes received the notification, but were not given an exact date when the spraying would start.

Mr McKim said the spraying would occur in the Huon water catchment, which could affect public drinking water and aquaculture ventures. "There is no guarantee overspray will not occur," he said.

"The Australian Medical Association has called for a ban on aerial spraying, which the Greens support, yet Forestry Tasmania continues to act as a law unto itself and ignore the threat to human health and vital industry sectors such as aquaculture."

Forestry Tasmania sprays Dominex when leaf-eating beetles threaten plantation growth. Forestry Tasmania's assistant general manager of operations Paul Smith confirmed spraying of the insecticide occurred at this time of year.

He said strict guidelines for spraying minimised any risk with the operation. "This is a standard practice,"Mr Smith said. Ïf the weather is not right, we won't spray."

Resident fear at trace of chemical By ROHAN WADE 14dec 04 Mercury

AT least eight households have stopped drawing drinking water from a creek after Government tests found it was contaminated with herbicides.

The township of Western Creek, near Deloraine, is reeling after testing found simazine and atrazine in Tusons Creek, which flows into Western Creek where residents pump their water.

It is hoping a State Government investigation will uncover the source of the chemicals, with timber giant Gunns Ltd, Forestry Tasmania and neighbouring properties all denying any part in the contamination.

Tusons Creek flows past a 110ha Gunns eucalypt plantation which was started about 18 months ago.

Western Creek resident and Upper Meander Catchment Landcare Group leader Kevin Knowles said as part of Gunns' good neighbour charter it had agreed not to use either simazine or atrazine on the plantation.

He said terbacil, which was also found at low levels in the creek, was used by Gunns when the plantation was being established.

Resident Debbie Lynch said she was not concerned with who was using the chemicals, only that it was stopped.

Mr Knowles said most of the properties along Western Creek drew water directly from the creek, with one house having an inlet just 10m from where the contaminated Tusons Creek entered Western Creek.

He said the State Government needed to investigate the source of the contamination and ban such chemicals outright.

Testing showed the water contained 0.61 micrograms a litre of simazine -- above the specified guidelines of 0.5 micrograms, triggering an investigation.

The Primary Industries, Water and Environment Department yesterday confirmed it would investigate the matter and would conduct more testing.

Gunns brand manager Sarah Dent said Gunns had not used atrazine or simazine at the plantation.

Last week the small township clashed with Gunns over 1080 baiting at another plantation, with a 28-signature petition eventually convincing the $1 billion company to cease its baiting plans.

Simply a non-event 17/12/04 The Age Newspaper Letters (Letter echoing Gunns claims - contradicting information in Gunns acts on spray claims article - below))

MEMO to Luke Chamberlain (16/12). The alleged spraying of a Tasmanian farm with a "potentially harmful carcinogenic herbicide" by Gunns did not happen, proven by flight lines from the helicopter's records and the absence of vegetative death on the ground outside the area of the sprayed plantation.

Atrazine, the herbicide used on surrounding plantations, is not a human carcinogen and after 40 years of use and extensive scientific studies has only been shown to be related to a particular cancer in human rats. The mechanism has been determined and cannot occur in humans.

By far the major use of this chemical is in weed control for canola. Forestry use is a minor market, but we don't see the same irrational attacks on agriculture.

Dr Barry Tomkins, department of forestry, University of Melbourne, Creswick.

Gunns acts on spray claims by Simon Bevilacqua Sunday Tasmanian 19/12/04

A Tasmanian man has received a threatening letter from forestry giant Gunns Ltd.

Gerard Castles, an international businessman who bases himself in Hobart, has been asked to retract a public statement he made about Gunns. "If not, then my client reserves all rights," the letter from Gunns' lawyers says.

The details emerged in the week Gunns issued a writ against a group of prominent Greens who had protested against the company's forest practices.

The letter refers to a letter to the editor written by Mr Castles which said "a contractor working for Gunns sprayed two people with atrazine".

Gunns, however, says the statement is "untrue".

The incident referred to was a feature of a national television story and at the centre of a media storm.

Wyena residents Howard and Michelle Carpenter said they were sprayed by a helicopter using herbicides while they were working on their property near Lilydale, outside Launceston.

The Gunns letter disputes this and says: -A GPS flight recorded showed the helicopter's spray unit was switched on only while flying over a nearby logging coupe.

-There were no signs of dead or browned-off grass on the Carpenter's property.

-Soil tests did not detect the chemical atrazine on the Carpenter's property.

The Carpenters yesterday provided the Sunday Tasmanian with documents to show the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment did find atrazine in the soil on their property. The analysis was conducted by Analytical Services Tasmania in Hobart. Mr Carpenter said grass had died and browned off as a result of the spraying.

"The analysis by DPIWE showed there was atrazine right where we were standing the day the spraying occurred," he said. Mr Carpenter said the helicopter was about 100m away when the spray drift came towards him and his wife. He said they were covered in poison.

Bluegum impact hits home by Glen Bernoth Warrnambool Standard January 4, 2005.

Acting Premier John Thwaites has conceded there is little the Government can do to arrest communities' fears that blue gum plantations will cripple their towns' economies.

Timboon, Simpson and Cobden have all reported slowed economies. Progress groups, schools and traders blame the proliferation of plantations in the area.

It is believed more than 40 cash-strapped dairy farmers have sold their farms to blue gum plantation companies. Many of those farming families have left the district.

Yesterday Mr Thwaites, the Victorian Environment Minister, said the Government was aware of the situation but could not step in and fix it. "You can't step in and stop people from selling properties on the basis that you want to maintain numbers in a school, for example," he said. "The Government just doesn't have the role or power to do that. "We're certainly prepared to talk to communities, talk to local government, to see if there are ways to ensure that communities and schools have a future. "We're a Government that is opening new schools rather than closing them but you can't step in and prevent farmers from selling their land.

Government can't stop particular farm uses in order to get a social objective." Mr Thwaites said the Government also had no means to pressure milk prices up so that families would be more inclined to stay on farms and in communities.

"Once again, that is private enterprise and the private enterprise system is not something that Government can direct," he said. "Hopefully milk prices will rise. "There have been fluctuations over time and we would hope milk prices will rise and farms will remain viable.

"Farmers have to make the best economic use of their land and its difficult for Government to step in and tell farmers that they can't use land for blue gums or other plantations."

He said the blue gum industry had its benefits too. "Plantations do provide wood that we all use. "Using plantations means there is less pressure on native forests and we protect native forests.

"Unless people stop using paper and wooden products we are going to keep needing wood.

"The main issue with plantations is water and we have to ensure they don't unduly affect the water table or take excessive amounts of water."


Victorians exposed to pesticides AAP 28jan05

MORE than 45,000 women living in Victoria's north-east could have been exposed to breast cancer-causing pesticides, new research reveals.

A study conducted by researchers at Melbourne's Monash University found a possible link between the use of organochlorine pesticides, used mainly in the production of tobacco crops, and breast cancer.

Monash University PhD student Narges Khanjani said up to 48,000 women in Victoria's tobacco growing region, the Ovens and Murray Shire, could have been exposed to organochlorines.

"Because this is the only region in Victoria to grow tobacco, the number of women possibly exposed is much higher than anywhere else in the state," Dr Khanjani said. The study was based on a comparison of 800 samples of contaminated breast milk collected in the 1990s and breast cancer data.

It revealed the samples from the Ovens and Murray Shire were the most highly contaminated and had the highest incidence of breast cancer compared with any other area in Victoria, Dr Khanjani said. She said women could have unknowingly eaten food containing the pesticides.

"Although women traditionally don't work in the fields, they have been exposed to the chemicals which have contaminated the food chain and have been unknowingly consumed in produce such as meat, milk and eggs," she said.

Most organochlorines were phased out around a decade ago, but some, such as Atrazine and Triazine were still used, Dr Khanjani said. "Chemicals like DDT have a half life of about 10 years so we would expect to see a reduction in the levels of exposure in the north-east over time and young people won't have the same degree of exposure to these organochlorines," she said.

Dr Khanjani said while some overseas studies backed up her finding that there was a link between the pesticides and breast cancer, others did not. No research had been done in Australia on the link between the chemicals and the disease, she said.

Doctors fear chemical link to child disease by Claire Miller Sunday Age January 30, 2005. p3

A surge in cancer and neurological cases in north-eastern Tasmania since 2002 is consistent with chronic low-level chemical exposure, says a report to be submitted to the federal Australian Medical Association next month.

The Tasmanian AMA has charted the rise for the first time and wants expert opinion from the AMA’s public health committee. The report says Tasmania has health anomalies including a sudden jump in childhood cancers and higher-than-average premature births. Its says cases documented around St Helens, on the east coast, in particular are symptomatic of possible chemical exposure.

The report says a rise in neurological illnesses, reproductive and gastrointestinal cancers around St Helens is statistically significant over and above what might be expected through population increases alone. The rise coincides with the expansion of timber plantations in the catchment that supplies the drinking water.

Plantations are sprayed with chemicals during establishment to kill weeds and grasses. The local Break O’Day Council, helicopter operators, the Health Department and the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment have identified at least a dozen herbicides in use or detected around St Helens since 2002. Many are known as possible carcinogens or hormone disruptors.

Tasmania’s Director of Public Health, Dr Roscoe Taylor, said cancers and other health conditions around St Helens did not appear to depart significantly from the rates expected in a population with similar demographics. The department has sought independent toxicology advice on the neurological cases and expects a report in a fortnight.

The Tasmanian AMA president, Launceston-based Dr Michael Aizen, said the Government response in investigating chemical use and testing water was inadequate, and data available was limited. He wanted more robust, transparent water testing that correlated with when, where and what chemicals were applied.

Stan Siejka, northern Tasmania’s only neurologist, said that in the past year he had treated several patients with unexplained neurological symptoms and definite exposure to chemical spraying. In a typical case, a worker showed classic symptoms after a field nearby was sprayed, but his employer called Dr Siejka to claim the worker had not been exposed.

"I don’t like to see this complete denial where there is a clear possibility that he could have been exposed," Dr Siejka said. "The frustration is we have little access to what precisely has been applied in the area, and it is very difficult to get independent assessments for the concentrations. A lot of the chemicals are known to have potential side effects."

Chemicals identified in the St Helens catchment included atrazine and simazine, classified by the World Health Organisation as Type 2B carcinogens, meaning they are suspected of causing cancer.

Atrazine is readily absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract, according to a draft review released in October last year by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

The review says atrazine, when properly used, is unlikely to pose an unacceptable risk to human health. However, it also noted the chemical was moderately toxic to creatures at the bottom of the food chain, including algae and tiny marine crustaceans. Overall, it said atrazine was slightly to moderately toxic to humans and other mammals.

Break O’Day Council began monthly water tests for chemical residues in July last year. The Health Department ordered tests following a community outcry over the failure to clean up chemical spilt in a helicopter crash in November 2003.

Two months later, more than 90 per cent of oysters downstream in Georges Bay died after a flood.

Break O’Day Mayor Stephen Salter said no chemicals had been detected so far and the water supply was safe. The council is sampling from the George River just above its entry into Georges Bay, where dilution is maximised. The St Helens town water intake is several kilometres upstream.

Alison Bleaney, the St Helens general practioner who alerted health authorities to apparent anomalies in illness rates, said the council and other agencies were using methods to detect individual chemicals and bacteria, rather than testing whether the water itself was toxic and then investigating possible causes.

Chemical Scare River water tests add to disease concerns by Claire Miller The Sunday Age February 6, 2005. P10

Water from rivers on Tasmania’s north-east coast is toxic to sea urchin larvae, a species used in European research as a model for pre-cancerous changes in human cells. Larvae cells dies in surface water samples taken from rivers with suspected chemical contamination. Oyster larvae cells also died or failed to develop normally.

Sea urchin cells are recognised as models for cellular development in all living things. Dysfunctional development is a hallmark for tumour cells and human cancers, according to French studies cited in a report prepared for the Australian Medical Association.

Dr Alison Bleaney, a general practioner at St Helens on the state’s north-east coast, commissioned the tests from Ecotox Services Australasia, an independent private laboratory in Sydney.

The AMA’s public health committee will consider the results at the end of the month, along with statistics from the Tasmanian AMA branch that suggest increased occurrence of neurological illnesses, intestinal tract tumours and reproductive cancers in northern Tasmania.

The Tasmanian AMA prepared its report following community concerns that health problems may be linked to chemicals used in forestry. The rise in illness coincides with the expansion of plantations, which have more than tripled in areas across northern and eastern Tasmania since 1996.

Timber plantations undergo chemical treatment in the first few years to remove competition from wildlife, plants and insects that might slow growth rates. Chemicals used include atrazine, a possible human carcinogen, and alpha-cypermethrin, which is toxic to oysters in trace quantities.

Tasmania’s public health director, Roscoe Taylor, said the tests using sea urchins and oyster larvae were not relevant to drinking water standards for humans. “No other regulatory or water authority in Australia has been in the practice of using these tests,” he said. The method could concentrate naturally occurring toxins, such as tannin, “so it is very premature to declare human health risks in relation to man-made toxins”.

He said the tests had been referred to the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment. The department would try to reproduce the sampling and conduct similar tests at other sites. “It is interesting stuff, but premature to speculate publicly about the risk to public health,” Dr Taylor said.

St Helen’s oyster farmers first raised concerns about chemical contamination after 90 per cent of their oysters died in January last year following a record flood. The Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment says fresh water killed the oysters.

A marine ecologist at Sydney Water, Dr Marcus Scammell, investigated on behalf of the farmers and said fresh water alone could not explain the death rates. Break O’Day Council has tested water in the George River, near St Helens, monthly since July last year. The results have been clear, but Dr Bleaney said the issue was the cumulative risk, not whether particular chemicals could be detected. She said many studies indicated chemicals acted in concert in the environment to harm human health.

Dr Scammell said European researchers used urchin cells as a predictor for tumour development in humans. He said Tasmanian authorities should suspend risky activities pending an investigation, and should test water to isolate what was harming the larvae. “Something is causing mortalities in oysters that are unnatural, and something is causing a significant effect on human health since mid-2001, he said. “We would put a halt to everything until we had worked out what the hell was going on.”

Life’s not what it seems in this neck of the woods by Claire Miller The Sunday Age p11 February 6, 2005.

Michelle and Howard Carpenter wonder what they have done to deserve what life has dished up in the last two years. They moved to a remote valley in northern Tasmania to escape the rat race, and somehow ended up living next to landowners they call the neighbours from hell.

A month after the Carpenters moved in, the giant timber company Gunns clearfelled and replanted its plantations, which flanked the Carpenter’s property on all sides. Mrs Carpenter said she could tolerate the logging trucks and the noise because she thought it would be temporary, but then the chemical treatment began.

First there were four rounds of 1080 baits, to poison wildlife and rabbits, between May 2003 and April 2004. At least 60 wallabies died, many in the Carpenters’ garden and in the nearby creek supplying drinking water to homes downstream. Then all the Carpenters were notified of three rounds of aerial spraying to kill weeds between March and August 2004. Six weeks after the spraying on August 18, the herbicide atrazine was detected at a level of 0.72 parts per billion in the bore supplying their drinking water.

Australia’s drinking water guidelines say atrazine is not a health concern unless it exceeds 40 parts per billion, but state atrazine should not be detected at all, and action should be taken to stop contamination if it is present. The US health standard is 2 parts per billion, and Europe’s is 0.5 parts per billion.

The Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment has investigated the contamination and sought legal advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions, but the Carpenters say they are being left in the dark. Mr Carpenter said the department did not give them a copy of its report and, as far as they knew, no one had investigated the atrazine’s source.

“It is bizarre,” said Mrs Carpenter. “I just can’t understand why they are not being open with us. It is our water, and we have done nothing to contaminate the water ourselves, but we are being treated as the suspects. The only thing we have done is live here on our property.”

The WHO classifies atrazine as a type 2B carcinogen, which means it possibly causes cancer in humans. It is linked to deformities in frogs, and has been banned in several European countries because of its persistence in groundwater.

Private forestry companies use atrazine and simazine, among a range of other chemicals, to kill wildlife, plants and insects that might slow down tree growth rates. Forestry Tasmania also uses chemicals, but stopped using atrazine in 1995 and its chemical cousin simazine in 1997, following community outcry about residues detected in drinking water around St Helens, on the east coast, in 1994. A spokeswoman for Gunns declined to comment.

A departmental spokesman confirmed a report was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions in mid-December, but refused to comment on its findings. Michelle and Howard Carpenter said they had their bore water tested in March 2004, before aerial spraying began, and the water was clean. The Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment has tested the Carpenters’ bore water since September last year, and sent the results to the couple. The tests show atrazine levels declining over time, but with spikes after rain. The last sample, taken on January 6, was at the limit of detection, at 0.05 parts per billion.

Gunns has also sampled the bore, as well as run-off from its plantations across the Carpenters’ property. It has refused to give the couple the results, despite a general policy of providing water test results on request to adjoining landowners.

It did however, provide a new tank and arranged for fresh water to be trucked in after the couple were forced to drink and shower in contaminated water for six weeks. A helicopter spraying chemicals had flown over their bore, which is on a narrow easement with trees on either side.

“We are lucky we don’t glow in the dark,” Mrs Carpenter said. “We have really copped it and they have given us no assurances they will not be spraying again.” But the couple are not planning legal action. “We do not have the finances to fight people like that – those big companies have money to burn, so I don’t know if we could even do anything like that,” Mr Carpenter said.

Chemical impact minimal Letters Sunday Age 6/2/05

I wish to point out a number of incorrect statements made by Claire Miller in her article “Doctors fear chemical link to child disease” (30/1).

Firstly, there is an inference that the “dozen herbicides in use or detected around St Helens” were all from forestry operations. There may have been a dozen pesticides detected in the shire, but few of these would have been used in plantation establishment. Only three or four herbicides have been used in plantation establishment in that area, and the plantation area comprises only 3.6 per cent of the total catchment.

Secondly, the statement that atrazine and simazine are WHO Type 2B carcinogens is wrong. They are Type 3, carrying about the same risk as talcum powder.

As to the helicopter crash in December 2003, a report by the spray information and referral unit of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment, stated that “the incident was correctly identified as being of minor environmental significance”. The nearest stream was about 200 metres away and the chances of any of that chemical reaching that far were remote.

A report that purported to link this event with the oyster deaths following the flood into St Georges Bay at the end of January 2004 has been thoroughly discredited, yet Miller inferred that there was a link. The influx of huge amounts of cold, fresh, dirty water from a downpour of 118 millimetres of rain over a day or two altered the salinity, turbidity, pH and temperature of the warm saline bay. This obvious cause of oyster deaths is undoubtedly the correct one.

Dr Barry Tomkins, School of Forestry, University of Melbourne.

No cancer ‘surge’

Claire Miller reports a “surge” in cancer in north-eastern Tasmania since 2002.

Given its dramatic appearance, readers could be excused for believing the graph headed “St Helens incidence in particular cancers” demonstrated a rising incidence of endocrine/reproductive cancers and digestive tract cancer over the period 1995 to 2005. Not so.

Cumulative incidence is graphed. This means that incidence in the first year is added to that of the second year to give the accumulated total to that date, and so on.

In a cumulative graph, a constant annual incidence will thus be depicted as a steadily rising slope, falsely suggesting an increasing annual incidence of cancer. The data presented was extremely misleading.

If the same data were plotted as annual incidence there would be no apparent change over time.

Professor David Hill, Director, The Cancer Council Victoria.

Water Action Call. Tasmania charts more disease near forest water catchments by Terry Sim On the Land Warrnambool Standard February 3 2005

Communities with drinking water catchments at risk from chemical sprays could not rely on authorities to do adequate monitoring and testing, a Tasmanian doctor said this week.

Tasmanian Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Aizen said it has taken community action and "agitation" to get water tested below commercially-forested catchments in north-east Tasmania.

South-west timber companies and the South West Water Authority at Warrnambool have failed to make public detailed results of water testing in the Otway catchment after chemical spraying on blue gum plantations. South West Water chief executive officer Russell Worland said yesterday the authority a month ago increased its testing range to include atrazine and some pesticides. He said test results have fully complied with drinking water standards and had not necessitated public reports.

Otway water is tested at towns on a daily to monthly basis. But Heytesbury region landowners, including dairy farmers, remain concerned about the potential impact on milk and drinking water quality of chemical spray run-off into streams.

Dr Aizen said this week it had taken independent community action to water testing implemented in north-east Tasmania. "If you are relying on organisations to do it you might as well give up," he remarked. "The community will have to invest in independent testing."

The Break O'Day Council in north east Tasmania is now testing for individual chemicals downstream of timber plantations at a water intake point, before a waste treatment plant and at the Georges River mouth, following a chemical spill from a helicopter crash and an oyster kill later in 2003.

Dr Aizen said a Tasmanian AMA report, due out next month, has charted an apparent rise in cancer, neurological illnesses and premature births in the St Helens area of north east Tasmania. But the AMA needed to ascertain if the data was statistically significant before it could be determined if it was symptomatic of possible chemical exposure or coincided with the expansion of timber plantations. It was too early to speculate if there was a link between forestry, water quality and the cancers in the catchment, but he believed the current water testing regime in the area was not showing "the whole picture", Dr Aizen said. "To look at chemicals in isolation is not necessarily the right way to go."

St Helens general practitioner, Dr Alison Bleaney, reported recent illnesses in north east Tasmania to authorities. She said upper catchment water testing, especially toxicity tests or ideally 'sentinel oysters' were needed to monitor water quality in catchments. "Until communities determine what they wanted in their drinking water and made the water authorities responsible for it then the current state of affairs would continue."

Heytesbury district landowners want an investigation into the compliance of forestry companies with regulations on bluegum plantings along permanent stream buffer zones. They are concerned buffer zones have already been cultivated and bluegums planted too close to rivers and streams, possibly on Crown land or in contravention of council permits.

Despite Corangamite Shire last week granting conditional permits for two plantations in the Otway catchment, Kennedys Creek organic farmer Andy Favero said he wants an inquiry into plantation planting practices in the area. He has seen where bluegum companies have planted trees less than five metres from Kennedys Creek and within two metres from Skinners Creek.

The plantation on Mahoney's farm bordering Skinners Creek has an environmental overlay administered by South West Water which precludes cultivation within eight metres of permanent streams. Mr Favero is also researching reports that native vegetation has been cleared from river frontages.

Mr Favero and Kennedys Creek potato farmer Andrew Bone are seeking increased transparent monitoring and auditing of water quality around bluegum plantations before, during and after chemical spraying in environmental rural and rural zones.

Crop spraying under review after second contamination http://www.abc.net.au/tasmania/news/200502/s1301584.htm Sunday, 13 February 2005

A statutory government body overseeing the use of chemicals in Tasmania says it is investigating possible breaches of the codes of practice for aerial and ground spraying on the east coast.

The Agricultural, Silvicultural and Veterinary Chemicals Council (ASCHEM) was reconstituted by the State Government last year, after massive oyster kills at Georges Bay on the east coast. But public confidence was shattered again last week when the herbicide simazine was detected in Orford's water supply for the second time in six months.

ASCHEM chairman Kim Evans says an investigation is under way to determine the source of the contamination and any breaches of the code carry substantial fines.

He says ASCHEM has developed a comprehensive water monitoring system for 27 river catchments throughout Tasmania and monthly testing started in January.

"Within the coming weeks we'll be in a better position to release the results of the first batch of testing," he said. "To my knowledge it looks pretty good, but I'm not in a position to comment on the detail of those monitoring results at this time."

Meanwhile, Tasmania's doctors are driving a campaign for federal laws to regulate chemical use in agriculture and forestry.

The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says the news of further herbicide contamination supports its calls for precautionary protocols.

AMA Tasmanian president Michael Aizen says it is time for uniform laws and regulations for aerial and ground spraying of chemicals linked to some cancers in humans.

"There'd be predicability in what we use, how much we use, where we use it and when we can use it," he said.

"At the moment Commonwealth jurisdiction ends at the point of sale of these chemicals and the responsibility for application and usage of these chemicals lies with the states."

Dr Aizen says Tasmanian doctors are lobbying the AMA's federal council to raise the issue with Commonwealth agencies.

New oyster toxin alarm By ROHAN WADE 16 feb05 (The Mercury)

A PESTICIDE known to be toxic to oysters has been used in the Georges River catchment at St Helens near oyster farms already hit by mass shellfish deaths.

The revelation that the chemical spinosad was used on a 150ha plantation in the catchment has oyster growers again fearing for their farms' viability after millions of oyster deaths last year.

Sold under the name of Success Naturalyte Insect Control, the chemical's own data safety sheet states that it is toxic to oysters, as well as bees and a marine alga.

Oyster grower Jim Harris, whose business lost about $500,000 12 months ago when oysters died after heavy rains, said the situation was "a bloody joke".

Mr Harris said oyster growers themselves alerted the State Government's chemical registrar to the use of spinosad in the catchment. And he said it showed chemical use was unregulated.

In an email to St Helens Marine Farmers executive officer Brian Leahy in January, chemical registrar John Mollison said: "We have had some previous discussion about the use of the chemical spinosad. I have recently become aware that one of the forestry companies has recently used [spinosad] on about 150ha of plantation in the Georges River catchment."

It is understood spinosad was sprayed on the plantation late last year. Mr Harris said any spinosad entering the bay would have dire consequences for the oyster farms. "Why a chemical that says on its own data sheet that it is toxic to oysters could ever be used in a catchment that flows into a bay where there are oyster leases, it just shows there's no regulation at all," he said.

Mr Mollison also said he intended to have spinosad added to a list of chemicals being tested for in Georges River, suggesting no such testing has been done before.

Mr Leahy said the oyster farms had experienced difficulty in finding out which chemicals were being sprayed and when, and it was a "minor breakthrough" that spinosad had been confirmed.

Mr Mollison said yesterday spinosad had only been used in the area in November and December, and therefore was not associated with oyster deaths earlier in the year. He said waterways in the catchment were being monitored for the pesticide -- derived from naturally occurring bacteria -- and a warning was out about the need to adhere to application guidelines due to its oyster toxicity.

Oyster deaths in the bay last year prompted calls to ban aerial spraying in the catchment, but the State Government says testing has found no chemical traces.

AMA concern on water quality by Claire Miller Sunday Age March 6, 2005

The Australian Medical Association wants industrial and agricultural activities in water catchments to be indepedently monitored following a Tasmanian report on health concerns over increasing use of multiple chemicals on timber plantations.

AMA federal councillor and Tasmanian branch president Michael Aizen said agricultural, domestic and industrial substances were potentially toxic through contamination of water supplies, by leaving residues in animal and human food chains, and through atmospheric pollution.He said that in each case there was potential for human heamth to be adversely affected.

Dr Aizen said the AMA's public health committee had recommended water quality be treated as a major national public health issue of the public health "precautionary principle" adopted.

"A good start would be to minimise the contamination of drinking water with any chemical of pollutants and limit agricultural and industrial activities in water catchment areas. Where these activities are permitted for any reason, then environmental and human health impacts should be independtly monitored," he said.

However, Dr Aizen claimed there were serious methodological flaws in the report submitted by a water scientist and a St Helens doctor, and that it did not demonstrate increased adverse health outcomes in the Georges River catchment.

The report's authors had access to all medical records in the catchment, and found apparent increases in some cancers and neurological cases. Toxicology tests have shown the water is poisonous to several marine species at cellular level.

St Helens GP Alison Bleaney said water toxicity needed addressing as a matter of urgency. "I would like to see the immediate implementation of the precautionary principle," she said.

Sprays a threat to water supply Canberra Times March 8 2005.

The use of forestry herbicides in Canberra's water catchments is a threat to human health and could contaminate drinking water, a leading water quality scientist says.

NSW urban water industry management scientist Dr Marcus Scammell said, "Put simply, it is dumb practice." His concerns follow confirmation that a cocktail of herbicides - several of which were known to contaminate groundwater - had been used after the 2003 bushfires to control weeds and kill native regrowth in pine plantations throughout the lower Cotter catchment.

ACT Forests director Tony Bartlett said yesterday no herbicides had been used on ACT Forests land in recent weeks. But he confirmed that herbicides, including glyphosate, metsulfuron methyl, clopyralid, hexazinone and picloram had been sprayed in the catchment to control weeds such as blackberries. "Any chemicals used are done so under authorisation from the EPA [Environment Protection Authority]. "There is no ban on using these chemicals in the catchment or anywhere else in the ACT."

Concern over herbicide use follows recent controversy over the impact of forestry operations in the lower Cotter catchment. Scientists claim expert advice on the massive task of ecological repair after the devastating January 2003 bushfires has been ignored and have described the catchment as a "basket case".

The ACT Government claims key scientists were consulted and all signed recommendations to replant pines in the lower Cotter catchment. Dr Scammell said toxicity tests on the impact of forestry herbicides in Tasmania showed chemicals were able to move through the water and disperse widely.

"If people are drinking the water, showering in it and cooking with it, you do not take the slightest risk of any possible contamination within a catchment. "Melbourne and Sydney's water catchments are 100 per cent protected from any potentially harmful impacts. "People must have that reassurance that their drinking water is reliable."

He said the lower Cotter catchment's loose fire-affected soils would make it "easy for the chemicals to move around and enter the water supply".

Opposition environment spokeswoman Vicki Dunne has called for the Government to test the water in the Cotter River and to reassure Canberra residents that the newly opened $35 million Mt Stromlo water treatment plant is delivering clean water.

"There is potential for large amounts of sediment to be washed into the Cotter Dam and although they may be able to remove particulates, they can't take the chemicals out." GreensMLA Deb Foskey said several of the herbicides used within the catchment had been linked to groundwater and river contamination and loss of aquatic life.

Actew to review its water-test procedures By Rosslyn Beeby Research, Conservation and Science Reporter Wednesday, 9 March 2005 Canberra Times

ACT water utility Actew has moved to review water testing and catchment risk-assessment procedures after concerns about the impact of forestry herbicides on Canberra's water supply.It will now ask ACT Forests for herbicide spraying schedules and a full list of chemicals used in the catchment.

Yesterday, Actew managing director Michael Costello and ACT chief health officer Dr Paul Dugdale reassured Canberrans their drinking water was safe and complied with national drinking- water standards. "I think the people of Canberra can be confident," Mr Costello said. "We have for many years had, as part of our normal operations, regularly tested water for a suite of chemicals in accordance with the Australian drinking- water guidelines."

Dr Dugdale said all herbicides and pesticides used by ACT Forests were registered with national authorities as suitable for use in water catchments. "The National Drinking Water Guidelines recognise that at some times and in some places, pesticides need to be used in catchment areas. As long as the guidelines are adhered to, drinking water will remain safe."

Earlier this week, Sydney urban water management scientist, Dr Marcus Scammel, told The Canberra Times the use of forestry herbicides in a water catchment was "dumb practice" and a threat to human health. He said the lower Cotter's loose, fire-affected soils would make it "easy for the chemicals to move around and enter the water supply".

But Mr Costello said herbicides and pesticides had not been detected in tests of Cotter reservoir water conducted in December and May. Tests were conducted on surface water and at a depth of 3m at the Cotter reservoir's valve tower. "We have tested for a large suite of chemicals and we have detected no chemicals in the water."

However, he conceded Actew had no power to impose restrictions on forestry operations in the water catchment and no formal agreement had been reached with ACT Forests on joint management of the catchment.

Group monitors quality of water Colac Herald May 18, 2005 p3

Gellibrand and district residents will monitor water quality in Otways water catchments to see if aerial pesticide sprays affect the region's water quality.

The move follows a meeting at Gellibrand to have aerial spraying banned in the region.

Otway Environment Council spokeswoman Fiona Nelson said more than 65 Gellibrand residents, including organic farmers and grape growers, attended the meeting.

"We decided to establish an Otways clean water group to monitor water quality in the area," Ms Nelson said.

"A letter would also be sent to Environment Minister John Thwaites to have aerial spraying banned until its proved safe.

"We know water authorities do test for chemicals in the water catchment areas but not for ones that we are concerned with, which are the pesticide sprays used in pine and bluegum plantations."

She said residents were angry spraying continued when there was evidence chemical sprays were linked to cancer.

"None of the environmental and water management groups want to take responsibility for addressing the problem and it's frustrating," Ms Nelson said.

Otways Environment Council and Friends of the Earth are planning a similar public meeting at Apollo Bay.

A spokesman from timber company Midway Plantations said the company complied with laws relating to aerial spraying.

Steve Walker said Midway used helicopters for aerial spraying in Otways sites where the terrain was difficult.

"When we pick up a chemical to use we make sure we comply with all regulations and that it is registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority,: Mr Walker said.

"We believe the chemicals we use are appropriate, we notify neighbours that we are spraying as a matter of courtesy.

"Midway comply with requirements that are above the national standard and has certification with International Standards Organisation 1401," he said.

The Echo (Geelong) May 19 2005 p3 by Cassie Milner

Timber plantation companies use a cocktail of chemicals to combat weeds and bugs, but residents and environmental groups fear water catchments are being contaminated by the spraying. Gellibrand residents formed a clean water group last weekend in response to aerial spraying of pesticides around their town. Friends of the earth and the Otway Environment Council are calling for aerial spraying of pesticides over water catchments to be banned. Story page 3

Aerial pesticide spraying in hinterland timber plantations has residents worried.

Otways health fears

Gellibrand residents expressed concern at the weekend that aerial spraying of timber plantations was poisoning the town’s water supply.

About 60 residents attended a public meeting organised by the Otways Environment Council and Friends of the Earth on Sunday, to discuss whether the spraying of chemicals over the domestic water catchment should be banned, and to form a clean water group.

Otway Environment Council spokeswoman Fiona Nelson said plantation owner Midway was preparing to spray near Stevenson’s Falls. "There is a vast amount of evidence to say chemicals like Roundup and Simazine contaminate groundwater," Ms Nelson said. "They adhere to the soil, and have been linked to various birth defects and cancer."

Ms Nelson said the Otway Environment Council and Friends of the Earth were calling for a ban on aerial spraying in domestic water supply catchments. "There are several thousand hectares of pine plantations in the Gellibrand River catchment which supplies drinking water to over 50,000 people in the state’s south west. "It is an outrageous proposition that plantation companies are willing to risk people’s health by aerially spraying chemicals. We also have concerns about water pollution and potential impacts of spray drift."

She said the Australian Medical Association was also concerned about spraying in water catchment areas. The association’s public health committee has recommended water quality be treated as a major national public health issue following examination of a Tasmanian report into the effects of aerial spraying in water catchment areas.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Anthony Amis told the meeting that spraying of insecticides and herbicides had been a problem for many years. Mr Amis said as far as he knew, no one in Victoria was monitoring which chemicals were used, in what quantity and where.

"I am not scare mongering. Our job is to warn people of the risks associated with chemical risks through spraying." he said.

South West Water chief executive officer Russell Worland told the meeting the authority took just over half its water from the Gellibrand catchment, so it had a significant stake in the quality of the water.

Mr Worland said the authority had requested the plantation companies let them know when spraying would occur so South West Water could do checks of the rivers and creeks. "The company has agreed to that protocol," he said. "We are engaged in dialogue and negotiation with the company, but in terms of cracking a whip, no we are not able to do a lot."

But Ms Nelson said of the chemicals used by the plantation companies only one was currently tested for by the authority.

Water Samples taken regularly

Midway Plantations Afforestation Manager Steve Walker said the company did carry out spraying around Gellibrand.

Mr Walker said the herbicide Simazine was one of the chemicals used by the company. He said the company was working with South West Water to ensure the safety of drinking water, and regularly took water samples for testing.

Mr Walker said the dairy and farming industries also used chemicals, which could also find their way into waterways. He said Midway had a policy of contacting neighbouring properties before spraying, and it was possible spraying would occur soon. "We do do spraying this time of year," he said.

Mr Walker said the Tasmanian case where $1.5 million of oysters dies after a helicopter carrying forestry herbicides crashed had a dramatic impact on public perception of spraying.

Colac Herald May 25, 2005 p5 Plantation Woes. But no bluegums on floodway

Farmland at Swan Marsh will make way for bluegum plantations despite residents' concerns.

But a Colac Otway Shire Council ruling has excluded the two new plantations from floodprone land.

The Council has refused permits for Great Southern Managers to plant two bluegum plantations in flood-prone land, because it would be difficult to enforce rules to protect water from chemicals the tree company used in plantations.

But the ruling only stops the company from planting bluegums on parts of their land which are in a flood overlay – the council has no power to stop plantations on the rest of the properties.

Planning rules list plantations as an agricultural activity and the council has no power to stop agricultural activity on normal farmland.

The council can stop plantations on land under a flood inundation overlay.

Cr Brian Crook said timber plantations were vital for Colac and district's economic future.

“However when it's as environmentally sensitive as this obviously is I think we have to be very careful,” he said.

Cr Chris Smith, who lives near the proposed plantations, said there was a lot of community angst about plantations.

Cr Smith said it would be imposible to stop plantation chemicals from flowing into Lake Corangamite if the plantation covered a flood zone.

“These chemicals are extremely toxic to water life,” he said.

Mayor Warren Riches said the council was positive about plantations but “must ensure residual chemicals are contained so they do not impose a risk to vital food producing land such as dairies”.

“Council acknowledges that the development of timber plantations in the rural zone do not require a planning permit unless the land is subject to overlay controls,” he said.

“Council will review the use and development of rural zones as part of the proposed planning scheme review.”

Great Southern Managers representative Mike Underdown addressed the council last week.

“We have a great deal of experience in using chemicals,” he said.

“Plantations probably use less chemicals than many agricultural enterprises.”

Mr Underdown said the risk of the chemicals contaminating groundwater was “quite minimal”.

Swan Marsh residents also addressed councillors about their concerns with plantation chemicals.

Eileen Craig said she was concerned the company would drive “huge” log trucks into Swan Marsh and near a school.

Neighbour Trish Mulheron said she was concerned plantations would leave damaged land after companies harvested the trees.

She said she was also concerned Swan Marsh properties would lose their value because of neighbouring plantations.

Viola Spokes said she was concerned plantation chemicals could affect pupils at a nearby school.

“My children go to the school, which is less than 200 metres away,” Ms Spokes said.

Letter Colac Herald, May 27th 2005 Tree Chemicals pose no threat.

Tree Plantations Australia is concerned that suggestions by various community groups over the use of herbicides may incorrectly raise the concerns of people living within rural communities.

Plantation companies are not willing to risk people's health, much less their own staff, through either ground-based or aerial spraying of herbicides. Many layers of regulation are in place to minimise the risk to people, drinking water, other agricultural enterprises and the environment.

In general, plantation companies go beyond the requirements of these regulations to provide further protection for their neighbours and the community. Demonstrating their willingness to operate beyond regulatory requirements, most forestry companies have achieved independent certification against standards such as ISO 1400, Australian Forestry Standard or the Forest Stewardship Council.

In Victoria, plantation management is controlled through the government's code of Forest Practice. This code specifies the width of the bufffer zones that must be left along water courses and rivers. The national authority governing the use of chemicals, the Agricultural Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority registers each chemical and specifies a set of label conditions that are designed to minimise any danger to people or the environment. The registraion process is intensive and can often take four years to complete.

If the herbicides are applied by aerial spraying, pilots are required to meet the Spray Safe standard of industry. This standard ensures that pilots are well qualified to undertake aerial spraying. To minimise any potential spray drift, they must complete a thorough risk assessment and risk management plan, by checking the weather forescast, identifying potential hazards, and considering the safety of neighbours and the environment.

Plantation companies sample the water for chemicals, both before and after the application of herbicides, from both upstream and downstream of the treated areas. this is done shortly after the application has been completed, and in the period after the first major rainfall event. where plantation growers perceive there is some additional risk of contamination from their herbicide use, additional risk management startegies are employed. These strategies are normally designed in conjunction with regional water supply authorities and local government.

Concerns have been raised over the potential carcinogenic properties of Simazine. Simazine is a common herbicide in agriculture and forestry. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is aligned with the World Health Organisation, there is no evidence to suggest that Simazine is carcinogenic. It is recognised as a Group 3 carcinogen, meaning it poses no greater threat than chlorinated drinking water, paracetamol or tea. Herbicides are used safely within water catchmemnts while plantation managers adhere to goverment regulations for each of those chemicals. These regulations are designed to ensure that human and environmental health is not placed at risk.

Phil Townsend, CEO, Tree Plantations Australia.

Colac Herald 1/6/05 Challenge over tree chemicals

Phil Townsend’s letter to the Colac Herald, May 27, 2005 “Tree Chemicals pose no threat” contains a number of inaccuracies that require further discussion.

Firstly Mr Townsend’s comments regarding Simazine fail to acknowledge that according the US based Pesticide Action Network (PAN), the herbicide is a developmental or reproductive toxin, a suspected Endocrine Disruptor and a known ground water contaminant.  PAN also claim that Simazine is a possible carcinogen.

So concerned about simazine is the independent certification body, Forest Stewardship Council, that Simazine has been prohibited under FSC rules of voluntary forest certification .  Under FSC rules companies using Simazine cannot be certified except under extraordinary circumstances.  Why would an industry wanting to be seen as being clean and green want to support the aerial spraying of a herbicide that has a such a poor international reputation?

Mr Townshend’s comments regarding the Code of Forest Practices also need further clarification.  Tree plantations come under the Private Section of the Code.  Responsibility for enforcing the Code on private land is the local shire.  Local Shires are not however responsible for monitoring of spraying of pesticides.

Just who is responsible for monitoring pesticides if they impact on waterways or airways?  If the plantation companies are monitoring waterways for pesticides as Mr Townshend suggests, why aren’t the results made public? 

Where and how are the samples taken? Who assesses the results and what laboratories are involved?   Most importantly, have pollution events occurred and why haven’t these events been made public? Is monitoring occurring for people living downwind of spraying events?

Many plantations in Victoria were established prior to the Code of Forest Practice.  Some of these plantations are being logged now and the Code not only allows such logging it also allows for the replanting of buffer zones with plantation species.  Buffers of native vegetation in many of these plantations is minimal or non-existent.  Friends of the Earth has witnessed the logging of plantations right up to the banks of rivers and creeks.  We have been alarmed to note that plantation managers mostly replant these areas with plantation trees. 

If the plantations are established so close to waterways, what are the risks of pesticides causing pollution to those waterways, particularly through aerial spraying?

One of the worst examples we have seen in the Otways is the logging of plantations within one metre of the Gellibrand river and logging within a metre of Charleys Creek. 

In February 2005, the Charleys Creek operation was deemed to have breached the Code of Forest Practice by the Colac Otway Shire, however we understand that plantation trees have been re-established within one metre of the creek. At the Gellibrand River site, just downstream of Stevensons Falls, private plantation logging is currently occurring in a Crown Reserve which extends for 1.5 km’s along the river, within one metre of the river in places.

Reestablishment of bluegum plantations on ex pine plantation sites and the current trend of planting out farmland with bluegum plantations gives more grounds for concern.

Bluegum plantations can be susceptible to insect attack meaning that spraying of bluegum plantations with insecticides does occur. 

The current insecticide favoured by the plantation industry is Alpha-Cypermethrin, which is toxic to some freshwater invertebrates at 4 parts per trillion. 

If this insecticide is used on plantations which have been established within metres of waterways, it is not inconceivable that the insecticide will find its way into the waterways, with disastrous impacts, as was the recent event of a massive oyster kill on the east coast of Tasmania.

It must also be pointed out that a large proportion of tree plantations in the Otways lie within the Gellibrand River catchment, which is the water supply source for 50,000 people. 

Friends of the Earth would argue that any application of chemical within this catchment would have to occur under stringent controls.  We further believe that aerial spraying is far too risky a venture to occur within a domestic water supply catchment.

With the spread of tree plantations into ex farmland and the spraying of second rotation plantation sites, Friends of the Earth believes that the practice of aerial spraying of pesticides must be banned. 

We believe that the current explosion in bluegums spreading across the countryside will encroach into areas where pesticide use has previously been minimal, putting rural lives and livelihoods at risk. 

So concerned is the Federal Regulatory body, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) that in 2003 the APVMA released draft technical requirements relating to the management of spray drift risk for consultation. The consultation is still occurring two years later.

Anthony Amis – Friends of the Earth Melbourne

Farmer questions water testing confidentiality April 10, 2005 http://www.abc.net.au/news/australia/tas/northtas/200504/s1342116.htm

A farmer from Lorinna in northern Tasmania says the State Government's water testing service returned her cheque when she complained about a breach of privacy.

Geraldine de Burgh-Day requested, and was assured of, confidentiality when she had water samples tested at Analytical Services Tasmania in 2002.

The State Government has been adamant that the service is completely independent and beyond question.

Mrs de Burgh-Day says she was astonished when officers from the Department of Primary Industries, Water, and Environment (DPIWE) arrived unannounced to test her water, saying they knew she was having water samples tested.

"These people were from DPIWE, they were nothing to do with Analytical Laboratories and how would they know that I'd had samples tested, but even more importantly how would they know that I've spent a lot of money on it?" she said.

"I mean goodness gracious, not only the fact that I'd had it tested was clearly information around the traps, but what it had cost me and that's astonishing."

Mrs de Burgh-Day says when she complained about the breach of privacy, her cheque to pay for the testing was returned with a note from DPIWE saying the invoice had been cancelled.

"A total admission that there is no confidentiality at all, I kept the cheque, I was absolutely astonished," she said. "I've been in business for many, many years and to do that to return a cheque is a total admission that there is a real problem, and I believe there is a real problem."

The manager of Analytical Services Tasmania, Mike Johnson, says he told a Government staff member about Mrs de Burgh-Day's water testing, but says no results were revealed. He says the incident highlighted the need for confidentiality to be maintained and better procedures have been put in place.

Orford water murky again The Mercury June 18

http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,15648690%255E3462,00.html 18jun05

HERBICIDE simazine has again been detected in the Prosser River, which provides Orford's water supply.

The herbicide was found at a concentration of 0.09 micrograms a litre (mg/L) in the second round of monitoring of Tasmanian waterways pesticide chemicals.

Samples from 28 Tasmanian rivers and streams were taken in April and May and sent to Analytical Services Tasmania's laboratory for screening for pesticides. All other sites were free of the pesticides tested for.

Primary Industries and Water Minister Steve Kons said while the low level of contamination was barely above detection level, it remained contamination and was unacceptable.

A sample taken from the Prosser River on January 18 found simazine, which was once linked to cancer, at more than double the level (2.5 mg/L) found in a sample taken on July 28 last year (0.0012 mg/L).

The Australian Drinking Water Guideline maximum is 0.5 mg/L. Director of Public Health Roscoe Taylor said latest level detected in the Prosser did not pose any risk to public health.

MILK PROBE By JULIE McNAMARA June 21, 2005 Warrnambool Standard

FOOD safety authorities have initiated an investigation into whether milk produced on a Simpson dairy farm has traces of blue gum aerial spray chemicals.

The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is carrying out the investigation following fears that pasture on the farm - which supplies Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory - was contaminated and transferred to cows' milk.

Dairy Food Safety Victoria (DFSV) chief executive officer Anne Astin confirmed yesterday that the independent regulator was aware of an incident and an investigation was under way into whether drift of aerial spray registered for use on blue gum trees had affected farm land.

Dr Astin said that as a precaution, none of the product made from the milk was being put on the market. She said laboratories were testing for the chemical simazine as well as its breakdown products, known as metabolites.

Dr Astin said the DFSV was first notified early this month and the results were expected to be revealed in the next four weeks.

DPI chemical standards branch manager Geoff Bennett said damage by spray drift came under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemical (control of use) Act 1992 and breach of legislation carried possible fines of $40,000 for a company and $20,000 for an individual. Mr Bennett said contamination would only apply if chemical residues above the set standard were found.

The Simpson dairy farmer involved didn't wish to comment.

Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory chief executive officer John McLean said he had no concerns about the milk but as a precaution, the skim milk powder being produced from it would be kept in isolation until the DPI investigation was complete.

"The farmer advised us there had been an overspray and we immediately checked the milk coming off that particular farm and we've got no problem with that," Mr McLean said.

"We just made doubly sure everything was perfectly safe and we can't detect anything."

"We never take any risks but at this stage there doesn't seem to be any problem."

A number of farmers throughout the Corangamite district have expressed concern over the past 12 months that spraying on blue gum plantations could pose a threat to waterways and other agriculture.

The farm in question backs on to a gully which runs into Kennedys Creek but South West Water Authority chief executive Russell Worland said it flowed into the Gellibrand River 200m downstream from its water collection point.

Mr Worland said the authority had stepped up its water quality testing program in response to concerns about possible contamination from spraying of softwood and blue gum plantations. He said the authority tested for simazine and other chemicals and there was no evidence of any contamination.

The authority had initiated a public meeting, to be held in Colac on July 18, he said. The meeting would also be attended the DPI, Department of Human Services, water authorities and Corangamite and Colac-Otway Shire representatives. Issues to be discussed include possible sources of contamination in the Gellibrand Valley.

Queuing to meet Thwaites By PETER COLLINS June 23, 2005 Warrnambool Standard

ENVIRONMENT and Water Minister John Thwaites will be tackled by south-west residents worried about blue gum plantation chemical spray drift on farms.

This week several submissions were lodged, seeking appointments with the minister during a regional visit by the State Government's community cabinet in late July.

Panmure farmer and environmentalist Gillian Blair and Simpson district farmer Andrew Bone lodged their submissions by the Tuesday deadline and it is understood Colac-Otway Shire Council has also sought a meeting with Mr Thwaites on the issue.

Earlier this week, the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said it was investigating if milk produced on a Simpson dairy farm had traces of the simazine and its breakdown products, following claims that aerial spraying of a plantation had drifted onto the farm. Results are expected to be revealed in the next four weeks.

Skim milk produced from the farm's supply is being held in isolation at Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory until the tests are completed. Previous concerns have been expressed by Corangamite district farmers, worried that aerial spraying will contaminate their farms and waterways.

Ms Blair said yesterday she had sent three submissions on rural environmental issues which she hopes to put to the community cabinet. "We need to stop spraying all together and have sustainable plantations," Ms Blair said. "This issue will not go away."

"I will be representing Friends of the Earth, the Western Environment Group and the South Western Environmental Action Group as well as the Clean Water Group recently set up at Gellibrand."

Mr Bone said the issue needed to be tackled urgently. "If milk can be contaminated, the chemicals could get into beef and harm our exports. We need to protect our clean and green image overseas. I'm not against blue gum plantations, but it's how they use the land that's worrying us. "There needs to be stricter and more enforceable controls on forestry. The chemicals they use affect water quality." \

Mr Bone is keen to gather other concerned farmers in his district to form a lobby group, similar to the group recently formed in Gellibrand. Ms Blair has also requested a meeting with Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron on geneticically modified crops as well as labelling and export issues.

/BA report commissioned by the Private Forestry Council Victoria was released yesterday showing environmental benefits arising from plantation forestry in particular to greenhouse gases and water quality. The review also compares plantation forestry with other more traditional forms of extensive agriculture - grazing and annual cropping.

This story was found at: http://the.standard.net.au/articles/2005/06/23/1119321825286.html

Blue gum dairy alarm - The Weekly Times, July 20, 2005 By Megan McNaught

Dairy farmers in south-west Victoria are calling for an environmental study to look at the effects of blue gum plantations on their industry.

The request follows recent research, which the farmers claim raises doubts about the safety of combining the two industries in one area.

Dean Logan, chief executive officer of environmental consulting company Eco Science Australia, which conducted the research, said he had "grave concerns", about the possible effects of aerial spraying on water supplies and on the dairy industry.

"They are spraying tonnes of chemicals in water catchment areas," he said. "Most water supplies tested around plantations contain some level of toxicity. "A comprehensive study is needed to fully investigate the effects."His preliminary research was funded by $90,000 from the oyster industry.

About 60 dairy farms around Heytesbury have been sold for use by blue gum plantations over the past three years.

Simpson dairy farmer and Australian Milk Producers Association president Alex McKenzie said the future of one of Australia's prime dairying regions was at risk.

Mr McKenzie said AMPA and other local farmers feared aerial spraying on the plantations could affect nearby dairy farms. "When it rains, these chemicals are washed straight down onto our properties," he said.

"The dairy industry relies on its clean green image, both here and overseas".

A recent case of overspraying that saw a large section of a dairy farm affected highlighted dairy farmers' concerns, he said.

Mr McKenzie said the plantations were already affecting the community. "We are gradually seeing our community shrink, as dairying families disappear," he said. "Our schools and community groups are suffering, and so are the local grain and machinery stores."

He said dairy farmers who were selling out to the trees were benefitting. But it was getting increasingly hard for younger farmers to buy into the industry. "Every time a farm is sold to trees, it gets harder for our young farmers to get in," he said. "This is the prime dairying region in the country and our farms are disappearing before our eyes."

Mr McKenzie said the issue was creating a division in the community. "There is a real stigma associated with selling to trees."

Great Southern Plantations is one of several timber companies in the area.

Public relations manager David Ikin said all properties were bought on the open market. "We don't force anyone to sell to us," Mr Ikin said. "We consult will all of our neighbours throughout the process and make sure they are fully aware of what is going on."

He said all aerial spraying was done under strict conditions. Farmers in the area were informed whenever spraying was going to take place. "These herbicides that we use are also used on vegetables, so they are very safe," he said. "We probably follow conditions more strictly than most people in agriculture."

Mr Ikin said the company worked hard to be part of the community, supporting local sporting and community groups. "We understand that it is a change in land use and the land is owned by a company instead of a family," he said. "But we do everything we can to be responsible neighbours." Great Southern Plantations exports all of its trees to Japan, where they are used to produce paper.

Families getting sick by Cassie Milner Echo News Paper Colac Thursday, July 14, 2005 p4

Gellibrand resident Helen Brettagh believes aerial spraying was to blame for her family suffering a bout of diarrhoea.

Mrs Brettagh, who lives adjacent to a timber plantation, is concerned spray drift from the chemical spaying is making residents sick. “My personal experience is that we all got diarrhoea after spraying including the cat who couldn’t make it to the litter box,” she said.

She also said that she was aware of four other families who had similar gastric complaints after a recent round of spraying. Ms Brettagh wants to hear from anyone in the region who believes the spray drift or contaminated water is making them ill.

“I think it is very important to identify those people who are. I want to start health mapping so we can see if people who are not sick before spraying are afterwards, ”she said. “I’m not against plantation timber, I’m just against getting sprayed with chemicals.”

No Tests Despite Spray Concerns by Cassie Milner Echo News Paper Colac Thursday, July 14, 2005 p4

Otway Environment Council and Gellibrand residents have slammed a Barwon Water decision not to test drinking water for timber plantation chemicals.

Representatives from Otway Environment Council, Friends of the Earth and Gellibrand Clean Water Group met with the water authority last week to ask if it would test water supplies for chemicals used in aerial spraying.

Otway Environment Council spokeswoman Fiona Nelson said the representatives were shocked to learn the authority did not consider the spraying of chemicals in the water catchment a public health risk.

“The risk assessment is not available to the public so we are unsure how this was determined,” Ms Nelson said.

She said it was surprising that Barwon Water would not test the Lardner Creek catchment given its counterpart South West Water Authority was testing water it supplied to Cobden, Simpson, Terang and Warrnambool.

South West Water Authority recently took samples from near Stevensons Falls where aerial spraying had taken place, and will monitor levels of Simazine – a possible carcinogen – and Glyphosate in the water.

“Unfortunately Barwon Water have not been as responsive to their customers and have chosen not to test.”

Gellibrand resident Val Warner said residents were outraged their drinking water would not be tested for chemicals after spraying had occurred. “There is also the problem of exposure to spray drift. There are organic growers in the area and many people have rainwater tanks.” Ms Warner said.

“How can we be certain that we are not being poisoned either through our drinking water, from chemical residues on the food we grow at home or from the air we breathe.”

Barwon Water systems executive manager Carl Bicknell said he was absolutely confident the water supplied to residents in Gellibrand was safe to drink.

Mr Bicknell said community groups were erroneously trying to link their arguments against chemical spraying of plantation timber to concerns about water harvesting.

“Barwon Water has no role in this debate because downstream from open catchments, water is treated and tested to the highest standards in the world with accordance with our responsibilities to our customers.” he said.

Ms Nelson welcomed a South West Water Authority initiative to form a water quality coalition which will meet on Monday.

Fury over water poison MICHELLE PAINE March 22, 2007 The Mercury

POISON detected in St Helens' drinking water has angered a local doctor, who has asked why residents were not told earlier.

Herbicides MCPA, atrazine and the restricted 2,4-D have been found in three Tasmanian rivers by government testing. Investigations have begun but authorities said finding the source was unlikely.

Agricultural chemicals MCPA and 2,4-D were found in the George River, near where suspicion was raised three years ago after a mass St Helens oyster kill.

Chemicals were also detected in the North-West Duck and Inglis rivers by tests which began two years ago after concern first triggered by the shellfish deaths.

"How can this happen? MCPA was found consistently on February 10 to 13 and still found at the end of testing," said St Helens GP Alison Bleaney.

"Why is the community put at such risk from this danger, which has been highlighted so many times before?

"There is no health value for this chemical in drinking water guidelines because guidelines have determined it should not be in drinking water," Dr Bleaney said.

She said chemicals applied in water catchments must have routine water testing afterwards. Dr Bleaney said she was angry that the Government press release was not accurate.

It said the MCPA detection was "transient", yet it was picked up in 10 tests on consecutive days.

Tasmanian Government registrar of chemical products Ian Parr said it was the first time the chemical had been found in the George River. Mr Parr said investigations were being done.

Contamination of the George River Alison Bleaney March 2007 http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php/weblog/comments/ble/

IT is disheartening to learn that after all the issues relating to chemical use in the water catchments over the past three years, the public now find out through an inaccurate media release from the Tasmanian Government that toxic chemicals were in the water of the George River at the water intake for St Helens.

Methyl chloro phenoxy acetic acid (MCPA) a herbicide for the control of broad leaf weeds was found in the George River consistently over three days (10 – 13 Feb 2007) and was still found at the end of testing. MPCA has no Guideline Value (GV) or Health Value (HV) as the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines have determined that it should not be in drinking water.

In addition to MCPA, on 10 and 11 Feb dichloro phenoxy acetic acid (2,4-D) another broad leaf herbicide was also found in the George River. 2,4-D is allowed to be used in Tasmania at this time of year only under permit.

Detections were above the GV for 2,4-D and since 13 February 2007 there has been no public information regarding pesticides in the George River, and no investigations as to the cause of the pesticide contamination, or indeed for how long the contamination lasted. In fact no pesticide results have been made publicly available since the last positive result on 13 February 2007.

The Break O’day Council (BODC), the water body for St Helens, was apparently not aware of the above results before the news release on Tuesday 20 March 2007. How can this situation arise?

How can chemicals be applied to water catchments with no routine water testing after their application?

How can the responsible water body not be in charge of their own water catchment with regard to chemical use, risk assessment, and water quality control?

Why is the community put at such risk from this dangerous situation, which has been highlighted so many times in the past?

The community has a right to safe and clean drinking water free from pesticides. The Tasmanian Government and the local water body (BODC) must do better than this.

The community at least deserves a responsible and accountable approach to drinking water management. Alison Bleaney is an East Coast doctor

News of more rivers contaminated. This time in the North West of Tassie.

In yesterday’s Mercury (21st March 2007): “Traces of the herbicide MCPA at a level of 0.27 parts per billion and atrazine at 0.05 ppb were found in the Duck River near Smithton. In the Inglis River near Wynyard traces of the herbicide Hexazinone were measured at 0.06 ppb.”

In the Advocate it is reported that the Chemicals Registrar (Ian Parr) was “unsure whether farmers or foresters were spraying too close to the water systems.”

Councillor Hine from Circular Head said “many farmers were currently spraying against various weeds...Farmers just need to be a bit careful with that sort of thing.”

However, the contamination of our rivers, creeks and rainwater tanks is a GUARANTEED result of normal (and legal) practice in this State.

See: http://www.geocities.com/rosserbj/this_is_a_perversion.html

All pesticides are dangerous and it is my understanding that it is a violation of federal law to claim that they are safe as Minister Llewellyn is claiming in yesterday’s Advocate.

i. Australian Drinking Water Guidelines “Drinking water should be safe to use and aesthetically pleasing. Ideally, it should be clear, colourless, and well aerated, with no unpalatable taste or odour, and it should contain no suspended matter, harmful chemical substances or pathogenic micro-organisms…”

ii. State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997 Clause 24 of the State Policy on Water Quality Management 1997 which provides that a person responsible for activities with the potential to contaminate groundwater must take appropriate safeguards to minimise the risk of contamination. Regulatory authorities (such as councils) should use their powers to require compliance with this objective Action is required to PREVENT future Contamination. Yet the state government has done nothing but legally perpetuate practices known to ENSURE continued contamination. Posted by Brenda Rosser on 22/03/07 at 03:26 PM

Herbicide link to cancer, sex defects Matthew Denholm The Australian June 22, 2007

AUSTRALIANS are being exposed to dangerous levels of a common herbicide linked to cancers and reproductive defects, a US scientist has warned.

Tyrone Hayes, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, will meet Australia's pesticide regulator and government scientists today to urge a ban on atrazine. The herbicide is widely used in Australia on crops including corn, sugar cane and canola, as well as forestry plantations.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is reviewing the use of atrazine. The National Health and Medical Research Council yesterday said it planned to review guidelines on safe levels of the herbicide in drinking water.

Professor Hayes said he would urge regulators to follow the EU in banning atrazine and its sister herbicide simazine. And he would present the findings of his research showing atrazine caused defects in the sexual development of frogs.

"We have shown that atrazine is a potent endocrine disrupter that causes a hormone imbalance that leads to a decrease in testosterone and an increase in oestrogen in exposed males (frogs)," he said.

"The net result of that is that these males develop as hermaphrodites. Based on lab rat models, as well as epidemiological studies in humans, this same mechanism leads to prostate cancer and breast cancer and decreased fertility in humans."

Professor Hayes is touring Australia and will be joined by Tasmanian GP Alison Bleaney, who says cancers and other serious illnesses are partly attributable to atrazine run-off from forests into waterways.

He said Australian regulations deemed atrazine safe in drinking water at a rate of 40 parts per billion, compared with the US standard of 3ppb. "That compares to 0.1ppb that causes the problems I've described in amphibians," he said.

In July last year, three Tasmanian rivers were found with levels of atrazine and simazine at 0.13 to 0.18ppb. Professor Hayes said Australians would be developing cancers and other medical conditions because of exposure to atrazine in drinking water.

An APVMA spokesman said Professor Hayes's research was not supported by US Environment Protection Agency studies. However, the APVMA organised a forum in Canberra today to allow Professor Hayes to express his views.

The Sunday Examiner, June 24, 2007 (Launceston) p4.

Water is 'dangerous' Professor calls for ban on chemicals

A visiting US professor has condemned Tasmanian drinking water, saying chemical contamination potentially made it dangerous.Professor Tyrone Hayes spoke at a community forum on water quality at Riverside last night.

The forum attracted about 200 people and was sponsored by community groups including Tasmanians Against The Pulp Mill.

Prof. Hayes is the professor of intergrative biology at the University of California (Berkeley) and has researched the effects of Atrazine and Simazine. The chemicals are used in agriculture and forestry.

He said before the forum yesterday that the chemicals had been banned in the European Union despite being invented by a Swiss chemical company.

"They are ubiquitos, they cannot be used in a way that they do not contaminate ground water, surface water and drinking water," he said.

"They are the most dangerous chemicals I have studied, based on their potency and prevalence in the environment."

He said that Atrazine caused chemical castration in laboratory animals 400 times below the levels allowed in Australian drinking water guidelines, which meant he would not drink local tap water.He said the chemicals should be banned.

Another forum speaker was St Helens doctor Alison Bleaney. She said environmental and human health were closely connected. Dr Bleaney said chemical contamination had been detected in drinking water catchments, including Launceston and the East Coast.

She said some of the health problems she saw could be related to chemicals in drinking water. She said these chemicals could cause hormone imbalances, leading to infertility and thyroid problems. They could also cause immunity problems, such as auto-immune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) and reduce the body's capacity to fight infections.

Director of public health Roscoe Taylor later responded to the comments, saying he supported restrictions on chemical use but Tasmanian drinking water was safe.

Dr Taylor said Simazine had only been found once in the State's drinking water at Orford, and at very low levels. "If they are used, they should be used very carefully," Dr Taylor said.

He said broadacre application of these chemicals should not happen in water catchments.

Department of Primary Industries and Water product integrity and biosecurity general manager Alex Schaap said Prof Hayes was consulting with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority plus speaking at public meetings.

"The rulings of the APVMA on chemicals and their application requirements are valid in the Tasmanian jurisdiction" he said. "As such, we are very pleased to see robust debate among scientists on the authorisation and usage of rural chemicals."

Forestry Tasmania spokesman Ken Jeffreys said the business had not used Atrazine since 1994 and did not use any chemicals on native forest, although some were used on plantations.

WA Times Historic trees fall victim to spray program 16th June 2007,

A weed-spraying operation has backfired, killing historic trees around Perth and causing the death or decline of others in at least 74 locations, including some on private property.

The City of Stirling’s report into the incident said the council normally used Roundup every six months to control weeds in sumps. But a decision was taken in 2004 to spray once a year with a longer-lasting herbicide, partly because sumps in the neighbouring City of Joondalup presented well and were sprayed annually.

But problems occurred six months after Stirling’s herbicide was changed to the chemical hexazinone in May last year. “City officers and residents started noticing deterioration in the condition of established trees and shrubs in and adjoining the sumps,” the report said.

And the city’s contractor, Turfmaster, warned that Joondalup was experiencing a significant stressing and loss of established vegetation next to its sumps.

Stirling’s tree expert advised the effect was probably due to hexazinone, compounded by drought and a dropping watertable.

Stirling’s investigation found that trees and vegetation in sumps sprayed with hexazinone were dead or in severe decline. “Though replacement planting could be undertaken using native vegetation, a number of the dead and declining trees were of a significant age class that categorised them as historic,” the report said.

In all 136 sumps had been sprayed, 74 of which required tree lopping or removal of dead vegetation, including dead or dying material in private properties adjoining 10 of the sumps. The report recommended that herbicides such as hexazinone should not be used in sumps.

It said the council should negotiate with the spray contractor to recover the cost for removing and replacing trees.

Turfmaster director Kim Evans declined to comment. The Health Department said Water Corporation tests indicated hexazinone was not in groundwater drinking bores in Stirling and Joondalup.

The Department of Environment and Conservation is still examining whether the chemical entered groundwater supplies. TORRANCE MENDEZ

Water for review as frogs shift sex Carmel Egan July 15, 2007

AUSTRALIAN drinking water standards are under scrutiny after scientific research linking commonly used herbicides to gender bending in male frogs.

The National Health and Medical Research Council is to reassess its drinking water guidelines after minuscule traces of the herbicides atrazine and simazine were found to turn the frogs into hermaphrodites — creatures with male and female sex organs.

Australian guidelines allow up to 40 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine in drinking water before it is considered a health risk. But scientific studies have found that male frogs grow ovaries when exposed to the chemical at the minuscule level of .1ppb in water.

"The current Australian Drinking Water Guidelines specify that atrazine should not be detected in drinking water and that if it is detected, then remedial action should be taken to stop contamination," NHMRC spokesman Nigel Harding said.

"The guidelines state that if present in drinking water, atrazine would not be a health concern in humans unless the concentration exceeds 40ppb. "The guidelines are currently under review."

Atrazine, which was banned across the European Union in 2003, has been used for weed control in Australia for more than 25 years and is the nation's second most commonly used agricultural pesticide, being sprayed around canola fields, forestry plantations and sugar cane crops.

There is no legal requirement for atrazine users to notify water authorities when the chemical is being sprayed. No traces have been found in Melbourne's drinking water since testing began in 2005, but Melbourne Water acknowledges it probably is used in the city's unprotected water catchments.

But while Melbourne Water tests twice yearly for atrazine to a level of .5ppb, it does not test for its close chemical relative simazine, which is used on Yarra Valley vineyards.

The Yarra Valley is part of the catchment zone for the Sugarloaf reservoir, which supplies drinking water to the northern and western suburbs. "Melbourne Water understands that simazine is used infrequently in the Yarra Valley, and because of this infrequency of use and its degradation in the environment, testing is not conducted, consistent with our risk assessments," a Melbourne Water spokesman said.

At .5ppb, its atrazine tests are still five times higher than the level required to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites, according to US scientist Dr Tyrone Hayes, an associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California.

"What struck us as unbelievable was that atrazine could cause such dramatic effects at such low levels," said Dr Hayes, an associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the frog study.

"If you take five grains of salt, divide this weight by 5000, that is the amount of atrazine that causes these abnormalities."

Environmentalists say Melbourne Water's tests do not go far enough. "They now test for atrazine twice a year at each of their testing locations, that's two readings per year or one reading every 182 days," said Anthony Amis of Friends of the Earth, which partly sponsored a visit to Australia by Dr Hayes. "Their results only go as low as .5ppb, which means they probably won't detect atrazine at the level required."

Herbicide leak in water feared Matthew Denholm October 03, 2007 (The Australian)

A TASMANIAN farmer is demanding compensation, believed to be at least $150,000, after herbicides sprayed on a Gunns forest plantation site apparently washed on to adjoining pasture.

The state Government is investigating whether any of the herbicides, including one chemical linked to crop contamination in the US, has contaminated waterways.

Local residents and community groups last night called for independent tests to be conducted to show whether drinking water had been polluted.

The concerns centre on a cattle grazing property at Dairy Plains, Western Creek, in the state's rural north. Residents' groups say heavy rains in August washed herbicides applied to a Gunns plantation site in late June on to land owned by farmer Michael Terry.

Mr Terry is understood to have lost pasture. Samples have been taken from a large dam on the property that is feared to have been contaminated.

Local community groups - Western Rivers Preservation Trust and the Meander Valley Action Group - said they feared the Western Creek, Meander River and South Esk River had been contaminated.

Rod Hutchins, of the Meander Valley Action Group, said these waterways provided water for towns such as Deloraine and Westbury, and the West Tamar, as well as emergency supplies for Launceston.

Mr Terry would not comment yesterday, but confirmed to The Australian that he was negotiating a settlement with Gunns. "I'm in negotiation with Gunns at the moment and don't want to comment," Mr Terry said. It is understood he agists dairy and beef cattle on his land.

Gunns was also tight-lipped. "Gunns is continuing to comply with all relevant regulations," a spokesman said.

The state Department of Primary Industry and Water confirmed it was investigating possible contamination. "The DPIW spray unit is investigating whether there has been any contamination of a waterway in the Western Creek area," spokesman Simon de Salis said.

Mr Hutchins said it was one of about eight examples of herbicide spray from forestry plantations affecting neighbouring properties in the state's north and east in the past six months.

He believed two herbicides had been sprayed on the Western Plains plantation land by Gunns: Oust and Glyphosate. "There is meant to be a buffer zone but they sprayed right up to the fence and the wash-off after heavy rains went as far as 1.5km into the adjoining property and into a dam used for irrigation," Mr Hutchins said.

While Mr Terry would not comment on the negotiations with Gunns, Mr Hutchins said he was aware that company director, and former Liberal premier, Robin Gray was among Gunns' representatives talking to the farmer.

Neil Graham, president of the Western Rivers Preservation Trust, questioned Gunns' environmental credentials. "How can Gunns hope to establish a pulp mill with environmental guidelines when they can't even adhere to guidelines in respect to establishing simple plantations?" he said.

The incident has inflamed local opposition to forest plantations, which have expanded rapidly in recent years, fuelled by tax-friendly investment schemes, taking over farmland. "They are destroying our way of life," Mr Hutchins said.

"Farmers get offers for their land that are too good to refuse and with them goes their families, and with them the services and community. There is also concern about whether the use of these chemicals is linked to the higher incidence of certain cancers in the north of Tasmania."

More chemicals in Tasmanian waterways Oct 17, 2007 4:25pm ABC Radio

Traces of herbicide have been found in creeks south of Deloraine, in Tasmania's north. Chemical herbicides have been found intermittently, in various Tasmania rivers and creeks for more than a year, including the Duck River, George River and Inglis River.

Now, small traces of MCPA and simazine have shown up in Western Creek and Brumbys Creek. Again, the Primary Industries Department says the levels are well below what experts consider a public health risk. But it will investigate the source, and three months ago, said it would meet farmers to teach them safer spraying practices.

Christian Goninon, from the Chemical Management Branch, says there've also been small, but consistent levels of simazine in the Macquarie River for three months. He says it appears to be coming from a forestry coupe near Lake Leake.

Atrazine labelling changes overdue Greg Roberts The Australian January 29, 2008

LABELLING changes recommended four years ago for the controversial herbicide atrazine have not been implemented bythe federal government body responsible for regulating chemicals.

According to overseas studies, atrazine, one of Australia's most widely used agricultural chemicals, has been linked to human cancers and environmental damage and is banned from general use in Europe.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority concluded in a 2004 report that existing label instructions for atrazine were inadequate. However, none of several recommended label changes has been introduced.

The report recommended labels prohibit the use of atrazine products in drainage lines. The chemical should not be handled or mixed in areas susceptible to runoff into waterways. New labels should prohibit the use of atrazine in grazing areas. They should insist that incidents of resistance to the chemical be reported.

The European Union banned atrazine owing to concerns that residues in ground water might exceed a nominal limit of 0.1parts per billion, but it is allowed for "essential uses" in some countries.

Australia allows atrazine in drinking water at up to 40 parts per billion.

National Toxics Network co-ordinator Jo Immig said opposition from farmers, especially canola growers, had held up the introduction of new labels for the chemical.

"There is plenty of evidence ... about concerns with this chemical," said Ms Immig, an environmental scientist. "It is unacceptable that atrazine continues to be the second most widely used herbicide in Australia."

Lyndon Pfeffer, grains officer for Queensland farmers group Agforce, said atrazine users had not been informed by APVMA of the recommended label changes. Mr Pfeffer said the chemical was an important tool for farmers, especially for grass control.

"There are no economic alternatives available. If there were cheaper options ... farmers would switch," he said.

Uses for atrazine were tightened following a review in 1997. The chemical is the subject of another review by APVMA. APVMA chemical review manager Les Davies said the label changes recommended in 2004 would be implemented as part of the current review. Dr Davies said they had not been introduced earlier as new information was continually surfacing.

"APVMA wanted to be sure the new information did not have implications for the 2004 recommendations and therefore held up implementing those while we assessed this information," he said.

A study last year in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives by Japanese and US scientists said atrazine was a risk factor in reproductive cancers in rats and humans.

Forestry spray may castrate rare Valley frogs Josh McMahon Josh McMahon, Clarence Valley Review. 5/2/08

Concerns have been raised that frogs in the Coaldale area - including two threatened species - may become unable to reproduce as a result of chemical spraying of thousands of hectares of plantation timber.

Forest Enterprises Australia has bought or leased in excess of 20,000 hectares of land on the Northern Rivers for its plantations, which require use of herbicide and insecticide to control weeds and insects. The company last year confirmed its use of herbicide simazine – banned in the European Union but used extensively in Australia.

John Edwards, of the Clarence Environment Centre, expressed his concern about the future of the Coaldale ecology, after he discovered scientific research that showed simazine could chemically castrate frogs at extremely low concentrations.

The research by University of California professor Tyrone B. Hayes revealed that at just 0.1 parts per billion, the chemical turned on an enzyme in frogs called aromastase, which converted testosterone hormones into oestrogen. The hormonal change caused male frogs to mutate into hermaphrodites – with both female and male reproductive organs – that were unable to reproduce.

Mr Edwards said the research could indicate the ecologically vital frog population at Coaldale was under threat - including the endangered Giant Barred Frog and rare Green-Thighed Frog, listed as inhabiting the area. The species are protected under State and Federal legislation.

“Frogs are at the bottom of the food chain … if a whole level of the food chain is removed it will have fairly horrific consequences for the entire biodiversity of the area,” Mr Edwards said.

He added the chemical would have certainly entered waterways such as a swamp on the Barrett’s Creek Road, where plantation trees could be seen as close as 10-15 metres from the water’s edge. Mr Edwards has written to NSW Premier Morris Iemma, alerting him to the potential effects of spraying upon the rare frogs and urging him to take action.

Aerial spraying last week resumed by contractors on behalf of FEA. Spraying by the contractor last year resulted in a fine of $400 being issued to one of its pilots, after testing by the Department of Environment Conservation and Climate (DECC) revealed low-level contamination of property adjoining a timber plantation. Simazine was found at less than 10mg/kg; and clopyralid at less than 2mg/kg.

In 2006 testing also revealed the contractor had contaminated another private property with herbicides, but no penalty was imposed. FEA forestry operations manager Chris Barnes last week said simazine wasn’t being used in the current spray, but refused to answer any other questions, saying, “All I’m prepared to say is that any concerned resident in the Valley, we encourage them to speak to us directly”.

In the United States, simazine use was banned in October 2006 in areas inhabited by the threatened California Red-Legged Frog, as a result of legal action. Subsequent studies by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed simazine was likely to have an adverse affect upon the species and its critical habitat.

Prof Hayes’ research into simazine also raises concerns about the potential effects of upon humans, according to Friends of the Earth Australia’s Anthony Amis. The group hosted a visit by Prof Hayes in June last year. “Of special concern is the fact that the aromostase gene sequence and regulation in frogs is the same as humans. If [simazine] has such an impact on frogs what about people?” he said.

According to Prof Hayes, simazine can cause increased rates of prostate and breast cancer in test animals, and there was also anecdotal evidence of increased incidence of cancer among humans exposed to the chemical.

Act now on herbicide: minister February 05, 2008 Greg Roberts The Australian

THE federal body responsible for regulating chemicals has been ordered by Agriculture Minister Tony Burke to introduce immediately label changes for the controversial herbicide atrazine that were recommended four years ago.

Mr Burke signalled a tough new approach to chemicals registration, telling the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority he expected better communication with user groups.

The minister's comments come amid revelations atrazine, which has been linked in overseas studies to reproductive cancers, was found in the drinking water of three Victorian towns.

The Australian reported last week that the APVMA had failed to implement labelling changes it recommended for the use of atrazine in a 2004 report.

The new labels would have banned the use of the herbicide, one of the most widely used agricultural chemicals in Australia, from drainage lines and areas susceptible to runoff into waterways.

Mr Burke told The Australian he was concerned that the 2004 recommendations had not been implemented.

"While I understand there was some scientific conjecture about the risks associated with its use and a range of previous changes implemented, I have asked that the APVMA implement the recommendations as a matter of priority," he said.

The APVMA is concluding another review of atrazine.

Mr Burke said he had asked the authority to inform user groups about its findings.

Victorian water supply agency Lower Murray Water has revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request from Friends of the Earth that atrazine was found in May 2006 in the drinking water supplies of three Murray River towns - Mildura, Red Cliffs and Piangil.

Western Creek aerial spraying prompts concerns 15/2/08 ABC Radio

Residents at Western Creek in northern Tasmania say they fear for their health, after the aerial spraying of tree plantations near the Meander Dam. The concerns come on the day the Meander Dam was officially opened.

Timber company Gunns started spraying the insecticide Dominex Duo on its plantations in the Meander area this morning, after notifying residents last week. Resident, Deborah Lynch, says there are concerns Gunns breached spraying guidelines and the spray drift will contaminate drinking water.

"We're concerned obviously for our health, our own health, we're concerned for the health of the waterway," said Ms Lynch.

The manager of Gunns Plantations, Ian Blanden, says all spraying was performed within the relevant guidelines. "This is just an example where we're going about our routine activities in as responsible a manner as we possibly can," he said.

Residents say there wasn't enough consultation before the spraying. Gunns denies the claim.

(for photos see here)

Toxic water supply fears for Candowie. 16/4/08 Phillip Island & San Remo Advertiser p5

Candowie Reservoir - the source of local water supplies - could be polluted with toxic pesticides not tested by Westernport Water, following the establishment of new plantations on its banks.

And the 133 hectare plantation could also suck up precious quantities of underground water from the reservoir. According to conservation group Friends of the Earth a plantation of bluegum and Australian native trees has been newly planted within 500 metres of the reservoir and poses a major risk to human health.

Friends of the Earth land use researcher, Anthony Amis, said according to a Freedom of Information request, Westernport Water has not tested for pesticides since late 2003. "And certainly not for the pesticides used in bluegum plantations" said Mr Amis.

He said herbicides in bluegum plantations were generally used only in the first two years, with many including Simazine, Amitrole and Terbacil causing major threats to health.

"In new plantations trees can be established right up to existing drainage lines, increasing the likelihood of pesticide runoff into waterways during rainfall."

Mr Amis said insecticides were sometimes used in bluegum plantations, which could affect the human nervous system. "Generally speaking, these insecticides can be used at any time after the second year, up to several times per year. "Insecticides are almost always applied from the air, increasing the risk of spray drift."

Authority's response

When the plantation first sought a planning permit, Westernport Water initially expressed concern. Westernport Water acting managing director, Keith Gregory, said in November last year a planning permit was given to the plantation's owners, Woollybutt, based on a management plan that included seven conditions. He said as part of the management plan the company was required to plant reeds to contain any pesticide run off.

"We always have concerns when anything is built close to the reservoir," said Mr Gregory. "But there is no real direct run off into the dam (from pesticides on the plantation). Where there is a likelihood of that happening we have asked them to plant reeds to stop the run off. "Inevitably there will be a little, we can't take it all away. The whole area has run off from farms."

Mr Gregory said Westernport Water did not test for pesticides as part of their routine testing, as outlined in national guidelines, but would consider doing so. However he said when there was major rain fall testing did take place.

He could not say which chemicals were tested for or when the last pesticide testing took place, noting that as far back as 2004 no testing had taken place. There are no issues I have been made aware of. "We take every test we can to ensure the quality of our water. "When there is a major rain fall event we do major testing."

He said farms in the area often conducted aerial spraying and were required to advise Westernport Water of these sprays. However the management plan clearly outlines that no aerial spraying will be undertaken, and should this occur it would be a clear breach of the permit. "We will be keeping our eye on it."

Precious water supply reduced

Mr Amis said the plantation also threatened to reduce the inflows of underground water into Candowie, with growing trees much thirstier than mature trees. He said in the amount of water used by a 100 hectare area plantation increased to about 200 million litres by year ten. "It does not create a good precedent to have a plantation so close to a drinking water supply. Plantations suck up a huge amount of water. It's one of the closest I've ever seen to a domestic water supply".

Mr Gregory said Westernport Water studies showed the plantation would not greatly reduce water quantity into Candowie. He said the same land was previously used to farm snow peas, and the new plantation would have the same impact as the snow peas in terms of consumption of rain run off. However he did admit plantations used more underground water. "We don't see it being great at all. Our view of the yield effect is that is expected to be negligible. "It's only a portion of our total area where we collect water from so it's not going to be great."

Council: No choice but to approve

According to Bass Coast Shire planning and environment director Hannah Duncan-Jones it was not possible for council to reject the application as it would go against both Federal and State Government policy, which supports the development of timber plantations. "If we had refused the application it would have been approved by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)." said Ms Duncan-Jones. The plantation, at Grantville-Glen Alvie Road and Tozer Road, Almurta, will include 50 hectares of bluegum, 30 hectares of yellow stringybark and 20 hectares of spotted gum with many smaller native species. The life span of the plantation will be more than 50 years.

Westernport Water does about face on pesticide testing 23/4/08 Phillip Island & San Remo Advertiser

Westernport Water has responded to community concerns and will now test for pesticides in Candowie Reservoir, the source of local water supplies.

The backflip follows fears outlined in The Advertiser last week that the reservoir could be polluted with toxic pesticides - not previously tested by the water authority - following the establishment of a new tree plantation on its banks.

According to conservation group Friends of the Earth the 133 hectare soon-to-be-planted blue gum and Australian native plantation is within 500 metres of the reservoir and poses a major risk to human health.

Friends of the Earth land use researcher Anthony Amis said Freedom of Information documents showed the authority had not tested for pesticides since late 2003.

However Westernport Water acting managing director Keith Gregory said the authority’s monthly board meeting last week agreed to test for pesticides from the plantation.

Mr Gregory said the plantation’s owner Woollybutt would supply a list of all chemicals to be used, with the first spraying to start in June and the following and final spray 12 months later.

“We will be testing the water now to see what the standard is like before spraying begins, then we will be taking tests regularly after that. We will continue to monitor the water,” said Mr Gregory.

He said it was not yet decided how frequent the testing would be but suggested it would be every month or two and definitely around major rain fall events. Results would be made public.

He said Woollybutt had confirmed they would not spray on windy or rainy days.

Friends of the Earth’s Anthony Amis welcomed Westernport Water’s decision to test for pesticides. He said not only pesticides but herbicides and insecticides should be tested and he waited with interest to see which chemicals were being used and would be tested for. “The more residual pesticides are of most concern, but it depends entirely on what is going to be sprayed,” he said.

“Also of concern is the regulatory position that makes a dose poisonous. Recent research is indicating that pesticides such as simazine have negative impacts well below the level thought to be safe by drinking water authorities.”

Mr Amis said ultimately Westernport Water should do a catchment audit, including Bass River and Lance Creek, asking farmers what they are using and in what quantities. Bass River and Lance Creek are now supplementing the Candowie Supply.

Mr Gregory said testing would continue on fertilisers in the larger catchment from farming run-off. “The quality of the water over time will be even better than it is now, simply because if cattle are not on nearby land and you’re not spraying chemicals then the water quality will be excellent.”

Resident fears

Residents spoke out about the pesticide threat with one letter to the Advertiser urging householders to be vigilant.

Surf Beach resident Jan Fleming said the fact plantations use massive amounts of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers dangerous to humans was of great concern. “If there are to be seven conditions on any permit, including no aerial spraying, who makes sure these companies adhere to the conditions?,” she wrote. “Authorities and users of this water must be vigilant.”

High cost of water

Mr Amis said the plantation threatened to reduce the inflows of underground water into Candowie, with growing trees much thirstier than mature trees.

He said the amount of water used by a 100 hectare plantation increased to about 200 million litres per year by year ten, costing about $1128 per million litres per year, based on current Westernport Water charges. “That's $225,600 worth of water by year 10 above what is being used now,” he said. “The longer the trees are in the ground the more water they will use.If the trees are there for 30 years the total could be much much higher.”

Mr Amis said while the plantation’s owners were the Australia-based Woollybutt, documents showed links with the major Malaysian plantation company Rimbunan Hijau. “So the question is why should Malaysian interests associated with one of the worst logging companies on the planet, be allowed to use your local drinking water?”

Mr Gregory said Westernport Water studies showed the plantation would not greatly reduce rain fall water quantity into Candowie, but he did admit plantations used more underground water.

According to Bass Coast Shire it was not possible for council to reject the application as it would go against both Federal and State Government policy, which supports the development of timber plantations.

The plantation, at Grantville-Glen Alvie Road and Tozer Road Almurta, will include 50 hectares of blue gum, 30 hectares of yellow stringybark and 20 hectares of spotted gum with many smaller native species. The life span of the plantation will be more than 50 years.

Alarm at Weed-kill Chemical in Water Matthew Denholm May 15, 2008

AUSTRALIAN regulators have allowed a widely used weed killer to be present in drinking water at levels twice those now shown to cause damaging genetic changes in human cells.

A new study by the University of California, San Francisco, has found atrazine increases activity of human genes linked to fetal growth retardation and infertility.

Atrazine is used to control weeds in forest plantations and crops such as canola, sugarcane, maize, sorghum and lupins across Australia.

Holly Ingraham, study senior author and UCSF professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology, told The Australian significant effects on human placental cells were seen when exposed to as little as 20 parts per billion of atrazine. This is half the 40ppb atrazine health value limit under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The US has a drinking water maximum of 3ppb for atrazine, while Europe has refused to approve it for use.

Professor Ingraham said as a scientist she had "no agenda" in terms of regulation, but she believed Australia's health value of 40ppb was "worrying". "If it were me drinking water, I would want it as low as possible," she said.

The study also exposed zebrafish to the chemical, finding significant effects at 2ppb and changes to sex ratios at 20ppb.

Earlier this month, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority announced its review of atrazine had concluded "no changes to the existing health standards" were needed. This was because while atrazine had been shown to disrupt the nervous, hormone and reproductive systems of rats, it was "unlikely that atrazine is an endocrine (hormonal) disruptor in humans".

However, the UCSF study drew the opposite conclusion. "Our results strongly suggest that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor - it is indirectly estrogenic, and it most certainly has the potential to influence reproduction, as well as other endocrine functions," Professor Ingraham said.

Endocrine disruptors affect the body's hormonal system, potentially affecting growth, development and reproduction. "Would a fetus or child be especially sensitive to this herbicide? Probably.

Our study shows that some of the genes targeted by atrazine have already been linked to intrauterine growth retardation and infertility."

APVMA public affairs manager Simon Cubit said the regulator's decision not to toughen atrazine restrictions was based on "weight-of-evidence" from many studies.

However, APVMA had sought expert advice from Australia's Office of Chemical Safety and drawn its attention to Professor Ingraham's study. The Health and Medical Research Council said it would consider "all the latest evidence" as part of its review of drinking water guidelines.

Atrazine producer Syngenta did not comment but has insisted the product poses no risk to human health.

Tasmanian GP Alison Bleaney, who believes atrazine may be linked to high rates of cancer and auto-immune disease, demanded an urgent regulatory rethink. "One would hope that our regulators would be protecting us and protection means occasionally that you have to take a stand on the balance of probabilities," she said. "And the balance of probabilities has shown for some years that atrazine is not a safe chemical to have in our environment."

Gunns hit with ban on use of herbicide Matthew Denholm May 17, 2008 The Australian

TASMANIA'S Director of Public Health has banned Gunns from using controversial herbicides in a town drinking-water catchment and suggested their use state-wide be reconsidered.

Roscoe Taylor revealed yesterday he had directed the timber company not to use the triazine herbicides - atrazine and simazine - to control weeds in its forest plantations in the Macquarie River catchment. This followed repeated detection of simazine in drinking water supplies for the town of Ross at levels more than double the national guideline.

Dr Taylor also told The Weekend Australian he believed the use of the chemicals in cooler states might need to be re-examined following evidence they were persisting longer in cool environments. "There have been two detections of simazine in drinking-water catchments in Tasmania in four years," Dr Taylor said.

"From my point of view (it's) three strikes and it's out." "If it can be demonstrated that these things are persisting (in the environment) despite good practice in their application, then maybe people need to look at whether or not their application in the Tasmanian setting is appropriate."

Also yesterday, Gunns confirmed it was reviewing the use of the herbicides, linked by some research to cancers and hormonal defects, on its plantations.

The developments follow The Australian's report earlier this week that American researchers had found that atrazine caused damaging changes to human cells at levels half those of Australia's drinking-water health value.

"I'm regarding this matter as under investigation," Dr Taylor said. "The issues include whether or not the triazine herbicides demonstrate greater persistence in the Tasmanian environment than they may, say, in a warmer climate."

He had observed persistence of the chemicals in the Prosser catchment at Orford, on Tasmania's east coast. "There was a fairly lengthy degree of persistence over many months - the chemical just stayed at very, very low concentrations," he said.

The State Department of Primary Industries and Water was developing ways to assess the risks of chemical use in water catchments. Dr Taylor would then pursue the issue via the national Agricultural, Silvicultural and Veterinary Chemicals Council.

"Until those pieces of information are provided to me, I feel it is best to ask operators to avoid using this long-acting herbicide in that particular catchment, where there is a public drinking-water supply that was contaminated," he said.

"My brief is to protect public health and I believe that the community should be reassured that in these cases, public health protection has occurred." He said atrazine levels in the Macquarie River, a source of drinking water for the Midlands town of Ross, had ranged as high as 1.35 parts per billion, far above the Australian Drinking Water Guideline of 0.5 > ppb.

The level was far below health value levels and Ross's water supply was already unfit for drinking because of algal contamination. "(However), it's an unnecessary chemical to have in our drinking-water supply and therefore measures should betaken to reduce it," Dr Taylor said.

Gunns had complied with his directive. "In fact, they indicated they would be seeking to review the application of chemicals on plantations," Dr Taylor said. "I will be interested to see what that review brings forward." Gunns confirmed that a review was under way.

Fined $10,000 for Spray Drift Damage September 19 2012 (The Weekly Times)

Plantations sprayed highly likely to be Hancock Plantations LEGL/93-67, LEGL/93-68, LEGL/93-69, LEGL/93-70, LEGL/93-71.

AN AERIAL spray contractor has been fined $10,000 for causing damage in the Kinglake National Park and Black Ranges State Forest.

In the first case of its type, Forest Air Helicopters, of Albury, pleaded guilty to three charges in the Wodonga Magistrates Court earlier this month.

A Forest Air Helicopters spokesman said they'd had to ''take it on the chin'', because the damage had occurred despite the implementation of the usual strict safety precautions.

Subsequent company investigations found only eucalypts recovering from the Black Saturday bushfires were affected.

It took a global search to discover that the trees had become more susceptible than usual to herbicides because of the intensity of the Black Saturday fires, which had been estimated at 10 to 375 times as strong as a prescribed burn.

''We searched around the world to find data on chemicals and fire-damaged eucalypts,'' he said. ''Historically up to five times as much glyphosate could be sprayed on eucalypts without drama.

''We eventually found they were so sensitive that if anything touched them at all . . . we weren't to know that, nobody was to know that.

''We couldn't find any documented cases of this type of thing. It was a problem no one foresaw.''

A Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman said he was not aware of any previous or current research into the effects of fire damage and chemicals on native trees.

The spray drift incident occurred over 10 days in April 2010 while Forest Air Helicopters was spraying a mixture of glyphosate and metsulfuron-methyl to control weeds in a forestry pine plantation.

It resulted in damage to more than 200ha of bushland near a number of forestry coupes at Kinglake West, Buxton and Narbethong.

The Forest Air Helicopters spokesman said he had never seen anything like it in his 20 incident-free years in the industry. They ran the usual computer modelling and risk assessments beforehand, had boundary riders in radio contact with the pilot and buffer zones in place on the ground.

All manufacturers recommendations and chemical label rates were observed. ''I've been using these two chemicals for years and never ever had even a hint of a problem,'' he said.

''There was no indication of a problem at any time. If there had been we would have stopped.''

After the problem became apparent six weeks later, the company started its own investigations, which cost more than $230,000 and involved taking their equipment, as well as 14 chemicals, mixers and surfactants to Queensland for testing in a wind tunnel.

The spokesman said tests showed only minute, harmless quantities of chemical would have left the target site, as expected.

Forest Air Helicopters pleaded guilty to three charges in the Wodonga Magistrates Court earlier this month.

Another seven charges were struck out. As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay court and other costs totalling $27,024.61.

No conviction was recorded. Department of Primary Industries chemical standards officer Jane Rhodes said the matter was a timely reminder for all spray contractors.

Return to the menu