a summary of some of our work in this field over the past few years....
FoE water and pesticide report
In late May, Friends of Earth released its report into pesticide residues in drinking water supplies throughout Victoria from 1996-2007. The report found that 140 incidents had been found by the Stateâ€™s water authorities. However these figures can be a little misleading because by mid 2007, four water authorities were not testing for pesticides at all and seven tested for only two currently used pesticides. Only three water authorities tested for between 40 and 72 pesticides. Melbourne Water only test for two currently used pesticides, even though 1.2 million Melbournians get their drinking water from Sugarloaf Reservoir, which has almost 10,000 hectares of intensive agriculture within 20 kilometres of its offtake from the Yarra River. It is estimated that between 200 and 300 pesticides would be used in the Yarra catchment alone, which could well be the most intensively farmed water supply in the state!
Pesticides detected in Victorian domestic water supplies included; 2,4-D, Glyphosate, Hexazinone, Simazine, Chlorpyrifos, Atrazine and the organochlorines Hexachlorobenzene, Pentachlorophenol, Diedrin/Aldrin, Heptachlor, Methoxychlor, Lindane and Endosulphan. The most serious incidents appear to be mostly related to use of 2,4-D, which is classified by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) as a Class 2B carcinogen - possibly carcinogenic to humans. 2,4-D is also known as an endocrine disruptor (these are substances which interfere with natural hormones). Many of the organochlorines had been banned for some time yet residues remain in sediment, which can be mobilised during rainfall. Most of the pesticides detected are known endocrine disruptors.
Water supplies of most concern appear to be centred on the Geelong region, with the two most serious events in the past decade occurring with the herbicide 2,4-D in May and August 2003. 2,4-D was found leaching into Wurdee Boluc Reservoir (located south west of Geelong)Â most likely through run-off into open aquaducts. Another serious pollution incident involving 2,4-D was also recorded in the Moorabool system at Stony Creek Reservoir located to the north of Geelong also in 2003. Readers of the FoE newsletter will be aware that the herbicide Hexazinone has also been detected leaching from a Hancock managed pine plantation into Geelongâ€™s drinking water supply (Moorabool catchment) since December 2004.
Other areas of concern include the Broken Creek catchment in northern Victoria which supplies drinking water to Nathalia and Numurkah, and water channels in northern Victoria which supply drinking water to several small communities including Tatura. Friends of the Earth estimates that almost 400 communities in Victoria are at some risk of pesticide contamination in their drinking water supplies, probably close to half of the States population.
Part of the project also involved mapping land use in the various water supplies throughout Victoria and also determining which pesticides are registered for use in different agricultural situations. Vineyards have more pesticides registered for their use than any other landuse in Victoria.
For a copy of the report in pdf form go to: http://www.foe.org.au/news/2008/new-report-on-pesticides-in-domestic-dri...
For updated catchment maps and a web version of the report see; http://www.baddevelopers.green.net.au/Docs/foewaterreport.htm
For a look at Melbourneâ€™s drinking water supply from the Yarra River go to;
Dr Tyrone Hayes
In June, Friends of the Earth organised the Melbourne leg of a whirlwind trip to Australia by Professor Tyrone Hayes, a professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California in LA. Hayes' trip to Australia was paid for by Tasmanian GP, Dr Alison Bleaney. Dr Bleaney has been concerned for some time about health issues relating to pesticides in drinking water, particularly in the community where she lives, St Helens on Tasmania's east coast.
Dr Hayes has determined that levels of the herbicide Atrazine at 0.1 parts per billion are high enough to chemically castrate frogs. Atrazine works by switching on aromastase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen.
Dr Hayes has observed examples of amphibian deformities, including male frogs laying eggs in their testicles, after being exposed to low levels of Atrazine. The issue is of huge concern considering that hormones in frogs, and animals (including people) are exactly the same. If Atrazine is so dangerous to frogs what about people?Â Hayes has concerns that Atrazine exposure leads to an increase in prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.Â The supposed safe drinking water level for atrazine in Australia is set at 40 parts per billion, 400 times above the level reported byÂ Haynes.
Hayes has also recently replicated his research on the herbicide Simazine. Atrazine and Simazine are the 2nd and 3rd most commonly used herbicides in Australia. Atrazine is used mainly on canola, corn, sorghum, sugarcane and forest plantations. Atrazine is unlikely to be applied in large volumes in Melbourne's waterÂ supply, however Simazine is widely used on a number of
different crops, including vineyards. Thousands of hectares of vineyards have been established above the offtake to Melbourne's water supply in the past decade, with implications for our drinking water. Most vineyards also rely on many other fungicides and insecticides.
Melbourne Water does not test for Simazine and only started testing for Atrazine in 2005. Yet Atrazine has been used in Australia for over 40 years!!!!
Hayes spoke to a number of media outlets in Melbourne and gave two public talks, before heading off to Canberra to speak to the Federal Regulatory bodies, the APVMA which approve chemical use in Australia and the NHMRC which sets drinking water standards in Australia. He also spoke in Launceston to over 200 people.
For more information see: http://www.atrazinelovers.com
[image: Tyrone Hayes]
Penola Pulp Mill
People will be aware of the massive opposition to the planned Gunns pulp mill north of Launceston â€“ more than 10,000 people marched through the streets in Launceston opposing the Gunns mill in mid June. However people may be unaware that the South Australian government also wants to build a pulp mill and is planning to use the same type of legislation that fast tracked the Roxby Downs uranium mine (in the 1980's), the Indenture Act, to fast track the construction of the Penola pulp mill in south east South Australia. Local residents are up in arms about the implications of the pulp mill, including a massive drain on the groundwater aquifers of the region. Over 40,000 ha of bluegums have been planted in the past 7 years west of Penola, which would feed the mill.
These bluegums will consume massive amounts of groundwater as will the new mill. Already groundwater in the region is being stretched and a new pulp mill will only add to this unsustainable demand on water resources. FoE recently uncovered the fact that it appears likely that the SA Government is fast tracking the mill, because they also plan to build a paper mill, most likely using chlorine bleaching agents. Penola residents had been told that pulp only was going to be made at the mill, created through Chemo Thermal Mechanical Bleaching.Â Chlorine bleaching can lead to the creation of organochlorines and dioxins. It must be asked if this is the real reason why the SA government is using the Indenture Act to cover up the controversial use of chlorine?