Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Tests clear … but not final

St Helens’ water supply has been cleared on three sides in the first week of March – with DPIWE’s first quarterly river tests showing clear, the first flood-event tests showing clear, and the AMA rejecting a scientific report on St Helens public health concerns.

But caution is still the word of the day according to many, including the AMA, the testing laboratory and the Tasmanian Greens.

Following recommendations by the Agricultural, Silvicultural and Veterinary Chemicals Council (ASCHEM) late last year, DPIWE augmented routine watercourse monitoring, beginning in January 2005, of 27 sites. These sites will be sampled once every 12-weeks for a range of pesticide chemicals.

In addition, flood event monitoring in the George, Esperance, Little Swanport and Duck rivers was also established.

The 27 sites are tested for any trace of a range of pesticide chemicals. “These were selected mainly because they are in common use,” said a DPIWE spokesperson, “although some non-common ones also were included either because of potential mobility to get into the environment or because of high toxicity”.

Results of both tests were released on 2 March. They showed “no detection” of any of the chemicals tested.

The Georges River was sampled at the St Helens water supply intake, on 4 February 2005 during a “flood event”.

St Helens GP Dr Alison Bleaney raised concerns in mid-2004 that a small number of chemicals can be a concern at levels below that which current methods can detect.

Mike Johnson, Manager of Analytical Services Tasmania who undertook the laboratory work, agreed that the methods and instrumentation used can not detect all chemicals at levels below a certain threshold. But, he says, they can test to the minimum safe levels identified in the Drinking Water Guidelines set out by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Alpha-cypermethrin may be another example

Mr Johnson identified 2,4-D, which can be a concern at levels at low as 0.1 parts per billion.

Alpha-cypermethrin may be another example. It is not listed in the Drinking Water Guidelines produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which the Council confirms is an indication that there are no safe levels for it.

Mr Johnson said that his laboratories are in the process of procuring new equipment which will have greater detection capabilities and will be equivalent to any laboratory anywhere in the world.

The timing of sampling also needs to be further developed say other critics. “We still need to see a system established where water is tested routinely after aerial spraying,” said Tasmanian Greens’ Kim Booth.

However, notification of aerial spraying activity is still an issue.

On more than one occasion in recent months and during the very public debate, Break O Day Council was left in the dark as to aerial sprays in the municipality. Without notification, authorities can not know to initiate testing.

The January sampling is only the first round of the new, ongoing program says DPIWE.

A DPIWE spokesperson said, “We understand that much interest centres on catchments used for drinking water supplies and also on forestry but in all the debate, it ought not be overlooked that we’re testing for a fuller range of chemicals and casting a wider net than catchments used for town supplies”.

“Our interest is to determine scientifically, transparently and using a NATA-accredited laboratory (the Analytical Services Tasmania lab at the University of Tasmania) whether watercourses are harmfully contaminated with chemicals (regardless of the source of the chemical and regardless of whether the streams are in catchments used for town supplies or not).”

Minister Steve Kons has said that the first round – while genuinely a solid start – should be seen as just the start and the program will be developed as the year progresses.

The Source is an independent newspaper for Break O’Day

Coming clean – what the tests reveal
Chemicals … the dark ages
Kons attack

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


  1. phill Parsons

    March 19, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    So what ‘evidence’ do I have before me in respect of the George’s River in St Helens.

    The independent Tasmanian water test that tells me that certain chemicals are not present at the tested minima.

    The independent Sydney tests that tell me that in some samples of water certain animal larvae died.

    What does prudence and science, those twins, tell me needs to happen. More refined tests until the results are close enough for an esplanation.

    Until this and certain other image matters are satisfactorily reolved number 3 will carry the curse of the woodchip, to sail at a loss.

    Look at the votes in the areas where the sea travelling doctors wives reside. Green 12% and above.

    Do you think they will come to see the destruction or travel to havens of nature?

  2. Brenda Rosser

    March 19, 2005 at 5:06 am

    DPIWE spokesperson says:
    “Our interest is to determine scientifically, transparently and using a NATA-accredited laboratory…”

    Scientific transparency cannot occur when a highly compromised organisation – with a political interest in hiding an environmental catastrophe – is in charge of testing and evaluation procedures.

    Unfortunately DPIWE have a strong reputation as being just that – highly politicised on the issue of water contamination. This is made abundantly clear by the following behaviour of this Department:

    DPIWE’s water sampling techniques have not fulfilled even the basic demands of scientific transparency. For instance, this department chose only the water tank of (of at least one) resident they knew had their pipe disconnected during the aerial spraying in question. And DPIWE have ALWAYS refused to carry out a study of rainwater tank vulnerabiliy to spray drift.

    DPIWE refused to describe the criteria under which they would take action to prevent spray drift over domestic roof catchments.

    DPIWE refused to take action to prevent repeated contamination of every type of water source over the last decade (or more). Up until a major public outcry recently, that is.

    Over many years DPIWE have consistently refused to answer key questions in relation to spray drift and risk assessments for communities. Even when the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicine’s Authority published a document effectively describing how CURRENT pesticide practice in Tasmania GUARANTEES widespread chemical trespass.

    DPIWE refused to respond to legitimate questions of concern from the public over many years.

    Lied to members of the public repeatedly over facts in relation to water quality, pesticide dangers and drift.

    In the context of a long history of statewide contamination and many overspray incidents I am unaware of a SINGLE time when DPIWE fined a pesticide user for chemical trespass and chemical abuse.

    The Department of Health behaviour mimmicks DPIWE in almost every sense.

    Scientific transparency can only be achieved if ‘double blind’ studies are done by entities with no political interest in the outcome.

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