Pesticides in the Barron

Below is a FoE article we sent to the Kuranda Paper and a copy of the letter that we sent to Craig Crawford, Billy Gordon and the Mareeba Shire Council.  

Contact the Council and the MPs. Tell them that you support the FoE recommendations outlined below. 

Barron River Bridge

Tell them you want better management and protection from pesticides and contaminates in the town water supply. 

It is an absurdity in this day and age for the government and Council to expect the public to believe that drinking agricultural run-off from an intensive agricultural area is not going to be damaging to peoples' health - no matter how hard they try and fudge their test results.

 

The Barron River: Kuranda's town water supply

Can the Council Really Claim Our Water Supply is Safe?

There are around 60 different crops grown in the Barron River catchment area. According to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority just one crop such as corn has 1415 possible chemicals registered for use.

The water test suites which are conducted twice a year by Council only include a very small number of the possible active ingredients of those products. Council has refused FoE’s request they do an audit, to identify which chemicals are actually used, so tests can be targeted accordingly. Also Council tests are conducted in April and September when most chemical run off after the first big rain events will have long passed through our town water supply, or washed down the Barron. Independent tests of the Clohesy River found heavy metals were clear in the dry season but, in December, after the first rains they showed a presence of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

Other toxins, for example blue-green algae toxins and chlorination by-products are not tested for at all. Widely used herbicides like glyphosate and atrazine are also not tested for. Research by JCU found atrazine in the mouth of the Barron. Glyphosate only narrowly escaped being banned in the European Union this year.

The town water filter system is such that it cannot remove all of the many possible contaminants that drain into the Barron. It is clear that the Council is in no position to guarantee that the water is always safe to drink as they don't really know what is in it.

We think the responsible response would be for Mareeba Shire Council to inform residents that town water may not be safe as there may be blue green algae toxins, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, chlorination by- products, pesticides, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and more in the water. Without an alternative clean water supply, solutions include introducing a state of the art filter system to remove all possible toxins and providing strong incentives and encouragement for organic farming in the Barron River catchment.

 

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Dear minister/mayor/councillor
Friends of the Earth FNQ has had concerns regarding the safety of Kuranda and Mareeba town water for many years now. We would like to resolve this issue.
There are around 60 different crops grown in the Barron River catchment area. According to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority corn on its own has 1415 products registered to be used.
After heavy rain events the Barron is quite easily transformed into an agricultural drain.
The water test suites which include heavy metals and pesticides are conducted twice a year by Mareeba Shire Council and only include a very small number of the possible active ingredients of those products.
Council refuses to conduct an audit to actually find out what is used in the catchment area so the test could be adjusted accordingly.
On top of it, those tests are conducted in April and September when most chemical run off after the first big rain events will have long passed through our town water supply or been washed down the Barron.
We found when testing the Clohesy that the tests for heavy metals were clear in the dry season but in Dec after the first rains they showed a presence of Arsenic, Cadmium and Lead.
Other toxins, for example blue-green algae toxins, chlorination by products and herbicides are not tested for at all including widely used herbicides like Glyphosate and Atrazine.
In 2006 a JCU study found Atrazine in the mouth of the Barron. Glyphosate only narrowly escaped being banned in the European Union this year.
The town water filter system is such that it can not remove all of the many possible contaminants that drain into the Barron.
Considering the above Council is in no position to guarantee that the water is always safe to drink as they don't really know what is in it.
In fact one might think, tests if they are conducted at all are timed so they produce good results rather than gaining an understanding of the forever changing water quality of the source water.
Council has responded to those allegation by saying that they are following the drinking water management plan. But on close examination of that document it appears that the testing regime does not correspond with the risk assessment, proposed control measures or proposed verification monitoring program.
We think the responsible thing to do would be, if Mareeba Shire Council informed residents that town water may not be safe to use as there may be blue green algae toxins, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, chlorination by products, pesticides, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and more in the water.
In Dec. last year DERM conducted 10 water tests on 5 different days in Myola on the Barron. The samples were tested for herbicides by QLD Forensic and Scientific services.
All the samples showed low levels of Diuron, Atrazine, 2,4D, Hexazinone and Fluroxypyr. Glyphosate was not included in the tests.
The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines say on page 401, 543, 606 and 642:
'With good water quality management practices, pesticides should not be detected in source waters used for drinking water supplies. Persistent detection of pesticides may indicate inappropriate use or accidental spillage, and investigation is required in line with established procedures in the risk management plan for the particular water source.'
The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines also reveal on page 310 regarding Cryptosporidium that Council is not following the guidelines.
As already mentioned Council should make residents aware about the fact that town water may not be safe to drink in Kuranda and Mareeba.
It seems Cairns City Council despite needing an extra water source to meet growing demand is more cautious and responsible about considering using the Barron as source water.
Apart from warning residents, Council should also test the source water frequently(twice a month at least) for all possible contaminants for at least a whole year to gain an honest understanding of the Barron River water quality. Based on the results of those frequent tests Council should draw up a new risk assessment plan which is then followed through by proposed control measures and a proposed verification monitoring program. 
If it proves impossible to guarantee that town water is always safe to use, an alternative safe water source should be found.
Yours sincerely
FOE FNQ
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Following is part of a FoE article to the Kuranda Paper on the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides and a letter to Minister of the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg on the matter.
 

Worldwide Concern Over Neonicotinoid Pesticides

The EU has recently moved to further restrict the use of neonicotinoids, which are widely used in FNQ agriculture and elsewhere in Australia. Typically persistent and lethal to a wide range of "non-target" species, they are thought responsible for a worldwide decline in bee and frog populations.

Deborah Pergolotti, of the Cairns Frog Safe project, estimates there has been a 95% decline in the Cairns frog population since her frog hospital opened 17 years ago which she attributes to neonicotinoids. Deborah has treated frogs with extra limbs, missing eyes, cancer, stunted growth and skeletal problems, none of which she says occurred before 1996, which is the year neonicotinoids were first introduced into Australia

Much agriculture depends on natural pollinators, so broad-scale, persistent toxins which attack them is certainly going to be bad for the natural environment and for agriculture itself. FoE is concerned about neonicotinoids and we believe a precautionary ban is merited within Australia. In FNQ, with its proximity to Wet Tropics and Reef World Heritage, the case for a ban is stronger.

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To the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP

Minister for the Environment and Energy

Parliament House Canberra

 

Re Pesticide Use in Far North Queensland, Neonicotinoids and the Impact of Pesticides on Corals and other Marine Invertebrates

Dear Minister,

It has long been recognised that pollution from land-based activity is responsible for some of the dire condition of the Great Barrier Reef - and State and Federal Governments have both made strong commitments to significant and effective reductions in land-based pollution from catchments flowing to the Coral Sea.

In that context, we request information from the Federal Government about pesticide usage and impacts on the terrestrial, estuarine and marine environments of Far North Queensland.

  • Does the Federal Government have data on pesticide usage in these catchments. If so, may we please be made aware of it?

  • Upon what research does the Federal Government base its policy regarding pesticide usage in catchments that drain to the Great Barrier Reef?

  • Is the Federal Government funding any research into the impact of pesticides on aquatic ecosystems, especially regarding the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef?

  • Is the Federal Government aware of any other research into the impact of pesticide usage on any of the environments of FNQ: terrestrial or aquatic?

Friends of the Earth FNQ is especially concerned about Neonicotinoids, which seem to be widely used in FNQ agriculture and elsewhere in Australia.

Neonicotinoids are typically quite persistent and lethal to a wide range of "non-target" species. The EU has restricted their use. Much agriculture depends on natural pollinators, so broad-scale, persistent toxins that attack a plethora of pollinators are likely to be a bad idea on first principles - not only for the natural environment but for agriculture itself.

We believe believe a precautionary ban on the use of Neonicotinoids is merited within Australia.

In FNQ, which is in proximity to marine and terrestrial World Heritage, the case for a ban is arguably even stronger.

In relation to concerns about the Great Barrier Reef in particular, we refer you to recent research listed below and look forward to your reply

Syd Walker

Friends of the Earth FNQ

http://www.foefnq.org.au

 

References:

Effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4284392/

"..enough knowledge exists to conclude that existing levels of pollution with neonicotinoids and fipronil resulting from presently authorized uses frequently exceed the lowest observed adverse effect concentrations and are thus likely to have large-scale and wide ranging negative biological and

ecological impacts on a wide range of non-target invertebrates in terrestrial, aquatic, marine and benthic habitats."

Water Hazard: Aquatic contamination by neonicotinoid insecticides in the United States

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/neonic-water-report-final-9152015_web_50152.pdf