Study confirms widespread pesticide pollution of Australian waterways

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth (FoE) today called on increased restrictions and bans on pesticides which continue to pollute Australian waterways. FoE also called for significant increases in the number of pesticide guideline levels published in ecological and drinking water guidelines in Australia.

These calls are based on a review of data revealing widespread pesticide pollution across Australia.

“Our research revealed almost 200 pesticides have been detected in over 3,500 locations in Australian waterways over the years” Friends of the Earth spokesperson Anthony Amis said. “This information was gained from published scientific reports and Freedom of Information applications from a variety of water authorities”.

“It is worrying that almost all of these pesticides have no ecological guidelines, and 40% don’t have drinking water guidelines” Mr Amis added.”FoE wants the most commonly detected pesticides to be banned from use within Australia”.

“95% of pesticides used in Australia and detected in waterways do not have ecological guidelines, meaning that if traces of the pesticide leach off land and into waterways there are limited mechanisms, including legal means, available to determine ecological effect of the pesticide on the waterway and the legal consequences of such pollution”. Mr Amis said. “Essentially many pesticide users are allowed to pollute waterways without due consequences and this has been the state of play for decades. Many waterways are treated as nothing more than agricultural drains” he added.

“Over 40% of pesticides that have been detected in Australian waterways do not have guideline limits under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, making it difficult to determine possible health impacts associated with people who are exposed to that particular pesticide. Because there is no Australian Government authority that monitors biocide use, water authorities often do not know what is being used within their water supplies and what to test for. This further complicates the issue”.

Friends of the Earth is recommending that the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), who publish the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, should contact every water authority across the country to get access to their water pollution data. In this way, the NHMRC can then better determine which pesticides require guidelines based on actual pesticide pollution events.

FoE is also calling on the National Environment Protection Council and the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand to urgently update ANZECC Ecological Guidelines, some of which have not been updated in almost two decades. ”A mountain of scientific research on pesticides and other pollutants has been published since the ANZECC Guidelines were last produced” Mr Amis added.

FoE is also recommending bans and label changes for pesticides commonly detected in waterways, particularly the herbicides Atrazine and Simazine, which represent 20% of pesticides entering waterways.

For more information contact Anthony Amis 0425 841 564 ajamis50@gmail.com

Please contact Anthony for a copy of the report.