Tasmanian Times


Tasmanian Water Monitoring – another casualty of State Budget cuts

*Pic: Fairfax picture of Dr Alison Bleaney in the George River in 2004

With regard to pesticide monitoring in waterways, Tasmania has now reverted to where it was in 2004 prior to the crash of a helicopter containing a number of hazardous chemicals used to spray forestry plantations in the upper catchment of the George River. DPIPWE is simply not applying water quality objectives in any catchments with regard to pesticides found in Tasmania’s waterways.

In mid-October 2014, DPIPWE confirmed that they had ceased routine pesticide monitoring in waterways (including drinking and ground waters). The announcement coincided with substantial funding cuts in the recent State budget and after a round of routine ad hoc water grab sampling that paints an alarming picture of the contamination of Tasmanian catchments and therefore surface and groundwaters. (8 of the pesticides routinely monitored in the sampling programme are listed in the most hazardous pesticides used in Australia.1)

The last round of monitoring had been in July 2014; finding the presence of herbicide 2,4-D in 6 of Tasmania’s large catchments (Boobyalla, Great Forester/Brid, Rubicon, Meander, Welcome and Clyde). The Don catchment sampling detected metsulfuron methyl, the Duck catchment sampling detected MCPA, the Macquarie sampling detected triclopyr and the Meander catchment detected triclopyr. Some catchments had more than 1 pesticide detected; the Rubicon catchment (8 pesticides detected in the sampling during the previous 6 months with MCPA at 19.1ugm/L in Jan2) – also detected atrazine and triclopyr, the Coal catchment detected propachlor and propyzamide. The sampling from the Clyde catchment – a catchment flowing off the central plateau into the Derwent River – recorded the highest level of 2,4-D at 11.2ugm/L and also detected clomazone and propyzamide.

Despite these alarming sampling detections, with the MCPA recorded (19.1ugm/L) at possibly the highest levels of this herbicide ever recorded in Australia, DPIPWE chose to shut down the programme.

The Federal Department of Environment and Heritage Protection updated their paper on water quality guidelines this year http://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/water/guidelines/ . It states:

“Water quality guidelines are often confused with water quality objectives. While guideline values are commonly used as the basis for water quality objectives, conceptually the two are quite distinct, as outlined by the Australian and New Zealand guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality:

‘A water quality guideline was defined above as a numerical concentration limit or descriptive statement recommended for the support and maintenance of a designated environmental value. Water quality objectives take this a step further. They are the specific water quality targets agreed between stakeholders, or set by local jurisdictions, that become the indicators of management performance.’

While guidelines are the technical basis of objectives, final water quality objectives take into account social and economic factors and are ultimately agreed to by all stakeholders. They also usually have some legislative standing whereas guidelines may not.”

Forestry Tasmania is about to increase its plantation workings and has just applied to the Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) body for permission (a derogation) to continue to aerially spray alpha-cypermethrin in eucalypt plantations. FSC does not ‘normally’ allow alpha-cypermethrin to be used as it is a highly hazardous pesticide. The Tasmanian regulator (DPIPWE) allows its use in mature plantations (by aerial application) as well as in agriculture.

As of mid-November 2014, DPIPWE has not indicated if it plans any further pesticide monitoring in Tasmanian waterways and its dedicated website is still down.

Tasmanian water catchments are obviously not protected from pesticide pollution and cannot claim to allow the provision of safe, pesticide-free, raw water for any water user. It remains unclear why the Tasmanian Government is allowing this pollution to remain unchecked or how it can be sure that this level of pollution (or worse) will not occur into the future. The group at greatest risk from exposure to pesticides are children; they are exposed before and after they are born. Exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) during these early life stages can have permanent and irreversible effects, with severe health consequences throughout childhood and into adulthood, and even for subsequent generations.

Despite this, Tasmania currently undertakes no mandatory pesticide monitoring of drinking water despite nearly all Tasmanian water catchments being multi-use catchments including agriculture, agroforestry with many supporting aquaculture.

1 http://www.ntn.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/1.-Pesticides-report-WWF-and-NTN-20.03.13.pdf


2 ADWG: No occurrence data for MCPA in Australian waters could be found, however it has occasionally been measured in some Australian drinking-water supplies at concentrations generally less than 1 mg/L. In the USA, MCPA was detected up to 0.54 μg/L in surface waters and up to 5.5 μg/L in groundwater (WHO 2003).

TPEHN: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Pollution_Information_Tasmania

Kim Booth: Pesticide Contamination Testing & Reporting Regime Shut Down by Liberals

Download summary of pesticide detections:


• This graphic relates to Comment 19

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


  1. Alison Bleaney

    November 28, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I’ve just been to an evening seminar hosted by DOHaD ..its Australian !


    And their statement is ..”what happens in the womb lasts a lifetime”.

    It’s a great resource and they share a lot of info on their website…well worth a look-see.

    The need for a precautionary approach to how we live and enjoy life has never been more compelling..

    Intergenerational transfer of effects ..by epigenetics on DNA and probably somatic cells ..via sperm and eggs, is being shown to have health outcomes. Effects from foods, starvation, excess stress, chemicals (plastics, heavy metals, pesticides, flame retardants, PCBs etc the list stretches on…) have been shown to produce diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, some cancers, auto- immune disease, neurodegenerative diseases, learning difficulties and ADHD..the list stretches on. Because we are all unique, we respond to insults (and good things!) in different ways, and insults passed on from our grandparents, parents, environment combine to give us ‘ourself’ ..with our own set of cells and chemical signalling tuned to the immediate and past insults. It’s pretty amazing stuff…much better than any science fiction drama! And so our ancestral genes still get a say in what we are..and what happens to us…

    And low dose (ppm and parts per trillion) effects from ‘insults’ (including pesticides) are real and do matter.

  2. Alison Bleaney

    November 28, 2014 at 9:36 pm


    This has appeared on DPIPWE website:

    “Pesticide Monitoring
    The website page for Biosecurity Tasmania’s Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Program is under redevelopment. However all test results for the Pesticide Water Monitoring Program, from the commencement of the program in 2005 to July 2014, are included here.
    The Pesticide Water Monitoring Program commenced in 2005. It was implemented as a means to increase knowledge and understanding as to the nature and extent of pesticide contamination of rivers and streams in Tasmania. Test results have demonstrated that our waterways are generally either free of pesticides or may occasionally have chemical traces at levels significantly below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines health-related guideline values. Consequently, the Department will now take a risk and evidence based approach to the agricultural chemical use issues that may impact on rivers and streams.
    The Department will analyse the information generated by the Program in detail to identify any higher risk areas that need further assessment. In such cases, an audit program focusing on chemical spraying operations will be developed to ensure that spraying practices are being conducted in line with legislative requirements. Water sampling and testing may be necessary to verify adverse audit findings. ”

    So here we have it; some words and ideals but no idea of actual actions regarding preventing pollutants getting into our waterways. Please don’t hold your breath waiting for evidence based appropriate outcomes…for that to happen you do need to gather all the evidence.

  3. Dr Nicole Anderson

    November 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    #21 #22 I have posed the question to my local Liberal office (who incidentally had the wonderful local products of bottled Cape Grim Water and Tarkine Tiger mineral water displayed proudly on their waiting room table – I can personally attest to their deliciousness but my palate unfortunately is not attuned to contaminant detection) and am waiting verification from the horses’ mouth that indeed water contaminant monitoring funding has now ceased or substantially reduced, and what the hell it means for Tasmania’s primary industry reputation. I think it would be prudent for the government representative responsible to release a statement and rationale for it.

  4. David Obendorf

    November 21, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Dr Bleaney the fundamental paradox is this: the Government states that it is going to take some action … but then does not do so.

    Budget constraints is offered as the [i]excuse[/i] why these promises fail to deliver.

    A [i]reason[/i] these actions are never followed up on is explained by theory of [i]The Absence of Evidence[/i] – if you don’t look, you don’t find and if you don’t find … it means there is no empirical data [evidence] to say you need to correct anything!

    The failure to monitor and collate means no baseline or ongoing data to determine trends.

    Getting Government’s to be accountable has been an issue for a long, long time. Thank you.

  5. Alison Bleaney

    November 20, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    # 19
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention Nicole, and I agree with your post. I’ve had a look at the said Discussion Paper and see that outcome indicators for the Environmental Section (DPIPWE lead agency) include “levels of exposure of non-target organisms and areas to environmentally toxic chemicals” and “concentrations of pollutants into waterways ” with no data available for either from baseline ( late 90s /2001) till now. Hard to work out how an evidence based approach functions with no data. And how then to review these key indicators for health and primary production? Will this affect our markets that import our produce ? Our ” international opinion of image ” has no lead agency (presumably it’s a whole of government approach) and as yet has not been “established”. Remarkable marketing and lack of apparent care for our communities.

  6. David Obendorf

    November 20, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Dr Anderson, I totally agree with you – [i]’Stopping the monitoring of irrigation/ground/drinking water undermines the entire primary food production system.'[/i]

    What is going on in DPIPWE? Maybe there was a change of heart after March 2014 when the new State Government was installed.

    What can community members like you and Dr Bleaney and others do in these circimstances? Thank you.

    PS: Currently Tasmanian poppy growers have a major downy mildew problem on their hands and onion growers are also fearful of this fungus attacking their NW growing areas.

  7. Alison Bleaney

    November 19, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    And little things do matter..cumulative effects are significant.
    Australia follows the US example when it comes to chemical regulation..APVMA/NICNAS etc should be demonstrating chemicals are safe before they allow them to be used.
    This is an excellent 7-minute summary and graphic presentation, by a leading researcher:


    Published on Nov 11, 2014
    Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, Simon Fraser University:
    “We’ve been studying the impact of toxins on children for the past 30 years and reached the inescapable conclusion: little things matter. We’ve discovered that extremely low levels of toxins can impact brain development. We have also discovered that subtle shifts in the intellectual abilities of individual children have a big impact on the number of children in a population that are challenged or gifted. Steps should be taken to reduce children’s exposure to toxins or suspected toxins.”

  8. Dr Nicole Anderson

    November 17, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Back closer to home, the Population Health Services, Background paper for the development of a Discussion and Options Paper for Safe and Healthy Food in Tasmania (October 2014, Tasmanian Government, Hobart, 2014.) has as foundational the water quality & it is a progress of outcome indicator – see Attachment 5 page 31.

    Stopping the monitoring of irrigation/ground/drinking water undermines the entire primary food production system. Any legislation which undermines the key indicators of primary production and health must be considered negligent.

  9. Brenda Rosser

    November 16, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    See this quote from the Australian Financial Review, page 5, 11th November 2014:

    “[Rupert Murdoch and I] were engaged with the senior people of China and it was drawn to our attention that 2 million people couldn’t be fed and they were seeking Australia to help to do that, “Mr Cowley said. “That was always on my mind….because the leaders of China were visibly upset about having to choose an area of China every year that wouldn’t be fed.”

    From the article entitled:
    ‘RM Williams Agricultural’s failed carbon farm had best intentiontions’

  10. William Boeder

    November 16, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    On this matter of a Trade Agreement between Australia (Tasmania) and China, well I suggest that David Obendorf has the correct perspective to the Trade agreement that is set to be achieved.
    Our dear supporter of the Abetz credo, TGC, is still throwing in his wobbly comments to undermine or disturb the certainty of this China/Australia Trade Agreement.
    Goodness knows why TGC is ever opposed to each and every sensible State government option available, that is for the greater benefit of Tasmania and its people?
    It could only ever be to support the Abetz doctrine of people discontent.

  11. David Obendorf

    November 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Andrew and Brenda, we know the greed for ‘free trade’. It is the driver of globalised movements in tradeable commodities internationally. China is likely to treat Tasmania like China has other desperate, cash-strapped, third world countries in Africa and the Pacific. Once they own the resources – like [b]Grange Resources[/b] in NW Tasmania – or they acquire the know-how on doing things for themselves, China will leave.

    As Mr Zhao told ABC TV last night: [i]’We see it [the establishment of a Chinese-funded research & training facility in horticulture in Tasmania] would be good help for us to produce in the future – to produce a high quality fruit [b]in China[/b]’.[/i]

  12. Andrew Ricketts

    November 16, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Re posts 7 and 11 that is absolutely correct. Thank you.

    Laissez faire hides behind claimed ambiguities over terms like the public interest but if TGC (post 10) would care to look there is ample material that defines and elucidates it.

  13. David Obendorf

    November 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    On last night’s ABC TV News and again this morning on ABC radio it was very clear that Chinese traders & investors in Tasmanian agricultural pcommodities are attracted by the State’s [i]’Clean-Green'[/i] image.

    Chinese fruit buyer [b]Loren Zhao[/b]: [i]’We think Tasmania represents the clean water, the clear air, the good environment to the Chineses customer.'[/i]

    Yes, Mr Zhao and it will be important that Chinese buyers and investors actually ensure that Tasmania’s ‘clean’ credentials are backed with authentic monitoring of those environmental values China so values.

    Thank you.

  14. David Obendorf

    November 16, 2014 at 11:54 am

    No much stands in the way of International Trade Barry [comment #12] even food safety standards can be applied arbitrarily.

    Only when it suits a country politically to impose a trade-barrier sanction might they decide to test an imported product for breaches in allowable chemical residues or test for specific disease detections.

  15. Barry

    November 16, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Like the comments in 11. I would hope that Australia would actually do the same thing to imports from China and other countries as they have a far worse chemical regime than Australia.

  16. David Obendorf

    November 14, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    China will be keen to seal a free trade deal with Australia on commodities like dairy, wine and seafood that directly involve Tasmanian industries.

    The issue should not have escaped Tasmania’s [i]Clean, Green & Clever[/i] marketers that the “absence of evidence” is not “evidence of absence”. It is always a concern when product assurance compliance standards drop in an exporting country.

    The economic worry is that if an importing country is not assured of the chemical residue testing or animal welfare standards or disease presence/absence of imported product then it might cause them to actually use their own country’s testing services to test an export product and then use those results as a reason to restrict trade.

    This is a no brainer; Tasmania needs to lift its game in this area or it will be caught.

  17. TGC

    November 12, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    #6 may have some ideas explaining hoew to get the electoral system working.
    And how to get people in government who will represent the public interest.
    #6 May also be able to give us a really outstanding and embracing definition of “public interest”

  18. Barry

    November 12, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    SW in 5. Its funny when someone corrects everyone but is way off target with their corrections. Pesticide is the coverall that cover all killers of pests. Pests are everything from insects,to weeds to rodents etc.
    Alpha cypermethrin is an insecticide, along with all other bug(insect) type killers.
    ROUND UP is a herbicide along with brushoff,2,4-d etc which all kill plants, weeds etc of varying descriptions.
    mancozeb is a fungicide which, you guessed it, kills fungus type pests
    Rats etc are killed by rodenticides and the list goes on.
    However pesticide is a coverall(I do believe it had a different meaning, similar to your version, in years gone by but not now)

  19. Alison Bleaney

    November 12, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    # 4 These are sensible suggestions and solutions and have been proposed previously; whether the powers that be will act on them remains to be seen as they have not done so as yet.
    # 5 “pesticides” describe the class of chemicals (biocides) grouped as insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides. However most are not selective to their group; therein lies the major problem when regulating for both registration and use and for preventative environmental and human health.

  20. David Obendorf

    November 12, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Pete, there is a very cynical view to why this monitoring has stopped. It goes like this – Tasmania thanks to the mantra is ‘clean, green and clever’. So it goes that we would not do anything to pollute that reputation. And so there is no need to monitor for pesticide and other biocide residues used by argiculture and forestry industries.

    And, if you don’t monitor something regular, there is no need to manage the consequences because you have no data!

    Ipso facto: Tasmania [b]must be[/b] [i]Clean, Green and Clever[/i] …. because even the Tasmanian Green Party regularly tells the World we are. And their political opponents love them all the more for that.

  21. Brenda Rosser

    November 12, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    It’s very clear that those who are wielding the power to deny the public safe drinking water do not include the public as ‘stakeholders’. Where do these individuals derive their power? From elections where the water quality and pesticide spraying issues are never mentioned.

    The real issue is that we have people in government who are not representing the public interest. The electoral system isn’t working.

    These same people should be behind bars, rather than running the country. Our legal system isn’t working either.

    It seems that we can, however, wait until the whole fossil-fuel-dependent agribusiness sector falls in a heap. Unsustainability shows itself to be just that in the end.

  22. Simon Warriner

    November 12, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Warning, thread diversion possible. Would those discussing this subject get the words right please.

    Pesticides are used to kill pests. Rat poison is a pesticide, as is alphacypramethrin (or however it is spelt).

    Herbicides are used to kill herbiferous plants. Roundup, Grazon, Glyphosate etc.

    If there is a word that covers both I am yet to learn of it. Using one or the other to cover both is confusing and leaves the door open to those so inclined to be willfully obtuse in their interpretations .

    Back on the thread material, Pete Godfrey’s idea sounds like one that might actually work.

  23. Pete Godfrey

    November 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    There are very easy ways to pay for the testing.

    First the Government can put an extra tax on pesticides to pay for the testing of waterways. We have taxes on petrol to pay for roads , so a tax on pesticides to monitor them in the environment is fair. Only the users would pay, and aren’t the Liberals in favour of user pays.

    Second. They can legislate to have markers added to any pesticides used in Tasmania that would make detection and tracing of pollution much easier.

    So it would cost the taxpayer nothing and the monitoring would be easier and faster.

    Now I wonder if they take my suggestion up. I won’t hold my breath.

  24. David Obendorf

    November 12, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    For those interested in the history of Tasmania’s topsy-turvy approach to water quality monitoring for pesticides please check the [i]Pollution Information Tasmania [/i] website on [b]Sourcewatch[/b]. It includes a chronology on Pesticide Monitoring.


    Thank you.

  25. Dr Nicole Anderson

    November 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    One wonders what those in the know at DPIPWE drink. Tank water? Even then you are not immune to the flow on effects of pesticide and other chemical pollution of water catchments, if you like to eat food that is. If there is known, potentially (and actually) harmful chemicals polluting the drinking water of humans, stock and fauna alike, and the source of irrigation for pasture and crops, then it is negligent for the Tas Govt not to act in the best interest of the health and wellbeing of its constituents and their agricultural/natural assets.

    Health after all, is critical to economic sustainability and in an island where the produce & products carry such high international regard, it is shameful that our govt does not see that protecting this as a high priority.

    Credibility rests in integrity & transparency.

    We cannot afford to further injure our ecosystem services such as the bees and other pollinators, and the underrecognised role of soil ecosystems & water ecosystems.

  26. Chris B

    November 12, 2014 at 10:45 am

    “With regard to pesticide monitoring in waterways, Tasmania has now reverted to where it was in 2004 prior to the crash of a helicopter containing a number of hazardous chemicals used to spray forestry plantations in the upper catchment of the George River. DPIPWE is simply not applying water quality objectives in any catchments with regard to pesticides found in Tasmania’s waterways.”
    Now I heard anecdotally that that crash discharged more pesticides than was admitted and the St Helens Water supply and affected.
    Do you know or have you knowledge of this ?
    Was it related to the cancer clusters in the area and what effect does pesticide have or had on the facial tumour disease in devils and their immune systems.
    Is this one of the costs of Forestry ????

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