Friends of the Earth Kuranda have put in a submission to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection about water quality and environmental values in the Wet Tropics. We have focused on the Barron river and the Kuranda and Mareeba areas.
Data on pesticides found in the Barron river appears to be limited. As this is an area with much agricultural activity, we believe it is a priority to establish how contaminated the water is and use this as a baseline from which to improve.
We have called for :
a. A catchment audit so that testing includes chemicals that are presently used in the area- this is not happening at the moment. Tablelands Regional Council (TRC) testing appears to be mainly for chemicals no longer in use.
b. Water Tests need to be done to a higher level of accuracy
c. Passive sampler tests- at moment only twice yearly tests.
d. Testing for chlorine and chlorine disinfection by-products which pose a risk to human health. Dichlorobromoform has commonly been detected in Adelaide drinking water above WHO guidelines for the past decade, at least. According to the WHO, dichlorobromoform is possibly carcinogenic to humans, and there have been both positive and negative results in a variety of in vitro and in vivo genotoxicity assays. – some being carcinogenic- levels need to be monitored. ( ref http://foe.org.au/chlorine-contamination-drinking-water )
e. Testing for pharmaceutical drugs introduced into the water from human and animal urine which pose a risk to aquatic ecosystem and humans. ( refs: Brodin, T.,Fick, J.,Jonsson, M.&Klaminder, J.Science339,814–815(2013). & Nature 14 February 2013 http://www.nature.com/news/anti-anxiety-drug-found-in-rivers-makes-fish-more-aggressive-1.12434 ). )
f. Testing for Roundup ( Glyphosate)
The world’s most popular herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers, according to a new study (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/25/roundup-health-study-idUSL2N0DC22F20130425 )
g. Testing for Acrylamide Flocculates.
Tablelands Regional Council has reported using polyacrylamide as a additional flocculation to Aluminium.
Acrylamide is the building block for the polymer, polyacrylamide, which is considered a non-toxic additive. However, polyacrylamide may be contaminated with its toxic building block, acrylamide. To date there have been improvements in the polymerization process reducing the monomer content of these polymers from 5% to 0.3%. In addition, regulations have been set on the amount of acrylamide that is present in polyacrylamide. For example, a limit of 500ppm in polyacrylamide preparations (PAM) is used in agriculture or water treatment. Unfortunately, PAM hydrogels degrade releasing acrylamide and other toxic substances to the environment.(Ref http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/acryl/uses.html).
h. Testing for a regular Blue Green Algae count at least in the warmer months.
The JCU report Water Quality Issues in the Barron QQIP Area ACTFR Report No. 08/06 mention that these contaminants were found in the Barron with passive samplers.
i. Research into and recognition of additive effects of different chemicals so that accumulative effects of toxic load is assessed and active breakdown products evaluated.
J Testing of both freshwater and marine organisms for contaminants. In the USA, 5 primary contaminants are found: mercury, PCBs, chlordane, dioxins and DDT..1
k. Prompt publication of water tests at local and State level on websites accessible to public such as TRC website. Also prompt warnings to the public about any toxic accidents causing contamination of the waterways.
The Clohesy river is only mentioned once in the Draft Wet Tropics healthy waters management plan consultation report – Environmental values for the Wet Tropics basins.
However the Clohesy is a probable source of mercury contamination as gold mining took place here in the 1800s. A battery was built to treat the gold ore and a small town grew up near the battery, called Clohesy. There is no trace of the town and battery today as the mining declined after 1898.. ( ref. http://www.cairnsmuseum.org.au/gold.htm) According to Jon Brodie ( personal communication at State of Barron forum), gold mining before the turn of the 20th century used mercury to extract the gold.
Recent water quality results released to Friends of the Earth Kuranda fail to show any testing by local council for mercury contamination of either the raw or treated drinking water in Kuranda.
We also made the point that stricter standards need to be enforced for clearing, agriculture and urban development close to the river. Increasing the riparian strips are clearly needed from the frequently muddy, high sediment state of the Barron river. Nitrogen run-off is a serious concern for the health of the coral reef.
Biodiversity overlays are important to ensure that development close to rivers is appropriate and a sufficient distance away to minimise run-off into the waterways. Revegetation of banks is important and needs to be encouraged with free advice made available by government at all levels to those attempting this.
Chemical run and soil run-off can be limited by encouraging the use of organic farming and revegetation and providing help to farmers, especially those in sensitive environmental areas.
We have also called for stricter conditions to be enforced on which chemicals are used and by whom. A registry is needed of pesticide use in Australia so that councils are aware of what chemicals are being used in their area and can test accordingly.