Pesticides and water supply quality a concern for Gippsland residents

May 2 2013

 Friends of the Earth raised
concerns today about a recently published EPA report regarding pesticide and
heavy metal detections in waterways in Gippsland.


The Report entitled 'Impacts
of Intensive Agriculture and Plantation Forestry on Water Quality in the
Latrobe Catchment, Victoria'
was released on the 29th of April. The
report assessed a range of water quality data across two sub-catchments in
2011/12, in the Latrobe River catchment, Narracan Creek and Middle Creek. It
also included some quality data from the Latrobe River itself.


Friends of the Earth
spokesperson Anthony Amis said, “The EPA
should be congratulated for producing a high quality report which should stand
as a benchmark for similar water quality studies in other regions. We urge the
Authority to increase this type of work across other catchment areas in
Victoria. We would however like to see the EPA increase their role in
monitoring for agricultural pollutants associated with other forms of intensive
agriculture such as dairy farming, particularly in catchments that are
designated as water supply catchments. The Macalister River at Maffra should be
an urgent priority”.


Of concern to Friends of the
Earth was the amount of pesticides detected in the Narracan Creek catchment,
particularly within the Narracan Creek domestic water supply which supplies
drinking water to over 25,000 people in Moe, Newborough, Yallourn North,
Yarragon, and Darnum. Friends of the Earth has also held long term concerns
regarding water quality supplied at Thorpdale.


Ten pesticides used by
potato growers were detected by the EPA in the Narracan Creek domestic water
supply. The pesticides included 23 detections of Triclopyr, Azoxystrobin,
Metalaxyl, 2,4-D, Metolachlor, Diazinon, Simazine, Metribuzin, MCPA and
Atrazine. “Although none of the samples
breached Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the amount of detections and
types of pesticides detected indicate the very real risk of water supply
contamination from pesticides”
said Mr Amis. Three pesticides were detected
in the Thorpdale supply In March 2012, Triclopyr, Azoxystrobin and Metalaxyl.


Mr Amis added. “Of further concern is that it is very
likely that there would be a number of other pesticides used within the
catchment that weren't tested for by the EPA. Amplifying these concerns is the
lack of permanent monitoring of the range of pesticides used within the
catchment by Gippsland Water. As long ago as the late 1960s Moe Waterworks
Trust were concerned about pesticides used within the catchment, yet no testing
was implemented. Current pesticide testing by Gippsland Water is unlikely to be
frequent enough or test a wide enough range of pesticides to capture exactly
what people drinking the water could be exposed to. What pesticides have people
been exposed to over the last 50 years through their drinking water?”


“This study should be a wake up call to Gippsland
Water to implement more thorough pesticide testing regimes. We urge Gippsland
Water to implement monthly tests for a wide range of pesticides in catchments
where intensive agriculture occurs.  The
study should also be used by pesticide regulators to amend label instructions
for the detected pesticides, particularly when they are used in domestic water
Mr Amis concluded.