Gippsland Environment Suffering From Pesticide Spray Drift?

May 10 2013

Pesticides commonly used in vegetable cropping have been detected in waterways 25-30km away from the nearest vegetable cropping areas according to environmental organisation Friends of the Earth.

EPA pesticide testing, released in a report last week, in the forested portion of Middle Creek, located in the northern Strzeleckis, detected the pesticides Diazinon, Metalochlor, Pirimicarb, Metalaxyl, Tebuconazole, Oxychlordane and Simazine in surface water and sediment of Middle Creek. The results were published by the EPA in “Impacts of intensive agriculture and plantation forestry on water quality in the Latrobe catchment, Victoria”.

Of these pesticides, the only one used in forestry operations in the upper catchment over the past decade is Simazine. “Forestry is the only land use within this section of Middle Creek, so the only conclusion that we can make is that the other pesticides have ended up in Middle Creek as a result of spray drift, where pesticide particles have blown in on the wind. This raises a  significant question: if the pesticides have been blown over such a distance, what other waterways have suffered a similar problem? Can we conclude that most other waterways (including domestic water supplies) in Gippsland could also be carrying traces of these pesticides?” asked Friends of the Earth spokesperson Anthony Amis.

“Middle Creek contained levels of simazine which are of concern. Simazine was also detected in sediment at two locations within the forested portion of the catchment. Seeing that simazine use was supposedly stopped in the catchment in 2003, it is quite worrying that the substance was detected 9 years after being sprayed. Simazine may have polluted local groundwater where its degradation has been slowed or it is being released from polluted sediment loads and re-released into the water column possibly in times of heavy flow. How many other Strzelecki waterways are suffering similar problems?” Mr Amis said.

Oxychlordane, a metabolite of the organochlorine Chlordane was also detected in the sediments of Middle Creek, as was Mercury. “We think that oxychlordane may have been washed into the creek via treated Eucalyptus seed in the 1970's and early 1980's. We understand that this practice was done elsewhere in Victoria to stop ants taking the seed. The Mercury is likely to be sourced from either bushfires or the burning of coal.” Mr Amis added. “If it's from coal emissions, what measures are the coal industry taking to minimise the impact of mercury on local water waterways? Mercury can in some circumstances bioaccumulate through the food chain”.

“It is illegal to cause spray drift impacting on neighbouring properties, yet where are the regulators when the spray drift isn't so easily identifiable and revealed only through water testing? How far has the drift extended and why has the drift been allowed to occur?” Mr Amis concluded.

For further information contact Anthony Amis 9809 1847