Access to clean water has been said to become human's biggest challenge.
Living in the Wet Tropics we might think that won't apply to us.
High rainfall and clear running creeks give us a false sense of security. For a number of years Friends of the Earth FNQ has questioned how council can guarantee that both Mareeba and Kuranda town water drawn from the Barron River is guaranteed safe at all times. The Barron River is a drain for agricultural toxins for example. The very limited testing for contaminants is no indicator for the quality of the water. Herbicides found in the Barron water for example are not included in Council test suites.
The same principle of inadequate testing applies to bores. If you don't have a comprehensive bore analysis done you can't be sure the water is drinkable. This has just been confirmed in the Koah area where a community project tested bores for heavy metals. Bores in rural residential subdivisions, that have been deemed potable [safe to drink] by Council, developers or real estate agents only had very basic testing done. The tests didn't include E.coli, heavy metals or pesticides despite being located in a farming area.
The heavy metal test is now revealing a widespread presence of arsenic in bore water. Levels ranging from high to too high according to the Australian drinking water guideline.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Friends of the Earth FNQ
Effects of neonicotinoids and fipronil on non-target invertebrates
"..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
Posted by· October 18, 2018 9:57 AM
Posted by· October 08, 2018 2:44 PM
Posted by· June 10, 2018 8:21 PM
Clear Felling and Aerial Spraying of Kuranda State Forest
The Dept of Forestry has informed FoE that the HQ Plantations holds a 99 year licence for 4,200 hectares of Kuranda State Forest which is being progressively clear felled and replanted with Caribbean Pine.
The Plantation says that they use helicopters to spray a mixture of glyphosate and fluroxypyr herbicide at the rate of 100 litres per hectare to kill any weeds or regrowth of the native vegetation. Fluroxypyr is listed on the label as being highly toxic to freshwater fish and aquatic invertebrates and glyphosate has just been reclassified by the World Health Organisation a month ago as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ – based on the fact that it is found to be carcinogenic to animals.Read more
Friends of the Earth Kuranda organized a forum on 26th May 2014. The Forum focused on the Kuranda town water, which is supplied from the Barron River.
The forum was attended by the Mareeba Shire Mayor Tom Gilmore, Deputy Mayor Jenny Jensen and a senior council staff member, plus a wide cross-section of people from the local area.Read more
Media Release – 15th May 2014
What is the current state of the water in the Barron river catchment and our drinking water? How does the water quality change with rainfall and drier times? What sort of tests are done for what sort of chemicals and pollutants?Read more