Tasmanian Times


Coming clean: what the tests reveal

In the “Scammell Report”, Environmental Problems Georges Bay, Tasmania , it was hypothesised that a toxic compound killed the oysters in Georges Bay following a flood in January 2004.
It was further hypothesised that fresh water delivered that compound to the oysters during the flood event.

It was hypothesised that the compound floats and was a man made chemical used in the catchment. Further, this compound was being increasingly used and was therefore associated with a growth industry in the catchment.

Is a toxic agent present or absent

The “Scammell Report” called for an immediate investigation, but that has not been forthcoming.

In January of this year the authors of the “Scammell Report” decided to instigate a toxicity testing program in the George River catchment. The value of toxicity testing is that the instigator does not need prior knowledge of what chemicals are in use in the catchment.

The test simply answers the question is a toxic agent present or absent.

Given that oyster mortality occurs after rainfall events it was believed that the toxic agent would most likely be present during the first flush of rainfall events.

Accordingly the authors first set out to establish that the surface layer was not carrying a toxin during dry weather flow. In mid January surface water concentrating devices were deployed at three locations in the George River catchment.

These locations were:

1. The South George River, upstream of dairy farms and downstream of a timber plantations (South George),

2. The George River just downstream of the confluence of the North and South George, adjacent to dairy farms (George River),

3. George River one kilometre upstream of the town water uptake pipe (Upstream).

Sampling was undertaken on the 17th of January following three weeks of dry weather. The purpose of this sampling was to establish a baseline survey to demonstrate that the surface waters are typically harmless to test organisms.

In addition to the above three locations a grab sample was also collected from the North George River.

The test organisms were oyster larvae and sea urchin larvae. Oysters are relevant to the observed mortality of oysters and sea urchins would give some information to establish if the problem was oyster specific or capable of affecting other species.

Toxicity testing was initiated on the 18th of January at a commercial Sydney Laboratory.

Results of that testing follow in:

Table 1

These unexpected results were immediately dispatched to Tasmanian Health and it was agreed that the testing would be repeated.

It was agreed that re-sampling would occur on the 14th of February and that scientists from DPIWE would also collect samples.

A scientist was sent from the Sydney Testing laboratory to collect the samples from the George River catchment.

An additional test animal was included in the next round of tests. This additional animal was the water flea (Ceriodaphnia duba), a freshwater filter-feeding crustacean.

The Government is yet to release their findings

Additionally a surface sample collection devise was deployed in the North George River. Three hours prior to sampling it was discovered that the sampling devices in the North and South George Rivers had been interfered with. Both were redeployed, however, the collection devices were normally left in place for 48 hours prior to sampling.

Thus, the samples from the North and South George Rivers are not comparable to the two downstream sites.

In discussion with the DPIWE scientist it was made clear that they would be running the 48-hour toxicity test on the water flea so that they could independently confirm our findings. Table 2 lists the findings from this round of toxicity testing.

Table 2

An additional sample from Crystal Creek was sent to the Sydney Testing facility on the 15th; however, this sample failed Chain of Custody documentation and was therefore deemed non-defendable, i.e. the integrity of the sample cannot be guaranteed.

Results from the second round of testing were completed on the 18th of February.

The government is yet to release their findings.

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Pete Godfrey

    February 16, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Bryan #4 may deride the comments of Paul and David but I also have plenty of data and first hand knowledge that these chemicals do harm. Having been oversprayed while at a friends house by a helicopter operating at least a kilometre away I can assure Bryan that alphacypermethrin does do serious harm. If losing your ability to concentrate for 5 days, having vision problems, feeling nauseous, having headaches for days and losing balance are not a problem then I don’t know what is.
    Of course the government found that no harm was done. Even though the sprays went into the Mersey river as the photos show.

  2. Paul de Burgh-Day

    March 15, 2005 at 5:37 pm

    Today I have been doing some research on the water quality and contamination issues we confront in Tasmania today.

    After reading what Minister Steve Kons has had to say, and in line with what I have written before, I am posting for the edification of all who wish to come to grips with some scientific truth, an enlightening document that places Tasmanian government sponsored science where it is – in the dark ages.

    I commend the url below as a remarkable resource that will shed some badly needed light on a subject that is being being exploited by government and corporations to the severe detriment of the people of Tasmania (and the whole world).


    Low dose effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals

    [link to examples of low-dose studies]

    Sheldon Krimsky’s book, Hormonal Chaos, describes endocrine disruption as a paradigm shift in toxicology. At the core of this shift are scientific results demonstrating that endocrine disruption has impacts at contamination levels far beneath those of traditional concern to toxicologists. Some of these levels are so low that industry has asserted the results are not reliable.

    The old paradigm focused on acute toxicity. How do high levels of contamination affect health? How do they cause cancer? How do they kill directly? How do they overcome the body’s defenses, like a massive invading army overwhelming the defenders simply by brute force and large numbers?

    The new paradigm recognizes that there are other ways that contamination can work. Think of how terrorists overwhelm larger forces. Instead of using the brute force of large numbers, a small number of molecules can hijack the hormonal control of development and cause intense, life long damage, undermining the immune system, eroding intelligence, diminishing reproductive capacity.

    This terrorist attack on fetal development works because some chemicals act as imposters, insinuating themselves in the body’s natural hormone system that normally directs fetal development. These natural hormone signals work at very low concentrations. And the imposters do also, sometimes at levels tens of thousands of times lower than the brute force approach considered by traditional toxicology.

    The implications of this new paradigm are profound. Every person living today carries measurable levels of several hundred synthetic chemicals, contaminants that did not exist prior to the 20th century. While we are fundamentally ignorant about the health impacts of most of these compounds – and profoundly so about their interactions – toxicologists had come to believe that background levels, the levels experienced by most people, the levels that are virtually unavoidable living in the world today, that those background levels were safe. This assumption of safety was allowed because scientists were considering them under the old paradigm, and with significant exceptions, they were not seeing dead bodies. The new paradigm indicates that an entire generation of science used to examine chemicals for safety was misguided, ignoring vital impacts at low levels of exposure, and likely to have given false assurances of safety.

    Part of this new paradigm is also the acknowledgment that old assumptions about the nature of the relationship between dose and response may sometimes be violated. Traditional toxicology assumes that dose-response curves are always monotonic: that is, that higher doses have a greater effect than lower doses. This assumption underpins all regulatory testing: if no effect is found at high levels, then it is assumed that the contaminant is safe. It also usually assumes that there is a threshold level of exposure below which no effect occurs.

    It turns out hormone systems aren’t always that simple. Sometimes high doses shut off effects that occur at lower levels. This can lead to dose response curves that are non-monotonic: low and intermediate doses produce effects that are larger than high levels. In mathematical terms, the slope of the dose response curve changes sign. The presence of non-monotonic dose response curves in endocrine disruption means that many toxicological tests have led to erroneous conclusions about safety.

    Another important assumption of these regulatory approaches is that there is a threshold beneath which no effect occurs. Here, too, endocrine disrupting chemicals violate long-held, but not tested, assumptions.

    What this means is that not only have we simply not tested the toxicological impacts of most chemicals, even those that have been tested have not been examined adequately. These tests were all done by beginning at high levels and working back down the dose response curve until the effect seen at high levels disappeared. Once that level of “no-effect” is reached, testing stops, assuming a threshold and ignoring the possibility that non-monotonic effects occur at lower levels.

    Paul de Burgh-Day

  3. David Obendorf

    March 13, 2005 at 3:38 am

    Independent monitoring and evaluation of water quality is essential to the long-term health of Tasmania’s ecologies. Toxic water systems can affect human health, our economic potential and biodiversity.

    If you reflect on the reactive catch-up that has taken place after the Sunday program on Tasmnania’s water quality was aired on September 27 2004 you’ll understand.

    Sadly, the principled people who have stuck their necks out ‘in the public interest’ to protect this vital asset will not be thanked for action by this government or its minders.

    As a Tasmanian I ask my government and its bureaucracies, why is it that our community must depend on Sydney-based water ecologists and laboratories to investigate these matters. Thank goodness some poeple genuinely care for a sustainable Tasmania, even if our government apparently doesn’t.

    Is it because it doesn’t cost our government anything if the community has to pay for these scientific evaluations?

    Is it because the government doesn’t care about the well-being of its people, its wildlife, it’s marine & freshwater ecosystems and it’s potential ecnomic wealth?

    The Unitied Nations reports that by 2050 the world’s human ppopulation will rise from the current 2,600,000,000 people to 9,100,000,000 a staggering 40% increase in the next 45 years!

    At the same time global biodiversity is plummeting exponentially to make room for all the extra people and our insatiable demands.

    I guess in these worrying circumstances, ignorance is bliss.

    What’s the consequence of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing?

  4. Dave Groves

    March 11, 2005 at 12:29 am

    Water, water everywhere, drink it up if you dare, pass this on if you care.

    I was present at a water quality presentation at UTAS Launceston last night.

    I am amazed and deeply concerned at events in Tasmania concerning water quality, pesticide use and lack of government concern.

    This forum reinforced my concerns. For all those who have any doubts about how these things are managed in Tasmania, I urge you to remove your blinkers and dig a little for the truth.

    I can assure you, you won’t have to dig too deeply to find some disturbing facts.

    Make no mistake; this is all real, here right now in your own homes, today.

    It is no accident that Tasmania has the dubious record for diseases such as cancers and MS.

    It is about as subtle as a train smash.

    Please don’t just take my word for it, do your own independent homework.

    Accept nothing but what is real.

    Pass this note to all who use water in Tasmania, for it is their concern.


  5. Mark

    March 10, 2005 at 3:40 pm

    Dearie me! You answered your own question. Obviously the urchins in goverment and the forest industry are 100% suppressed in their response.

To Top