The Atrazine Campaign
From For the Forests
by Helen Gee
Annie Willock and Bart Wisse
In 1993, the people of Lorinna refused to accept the poisoning of domestic water with herbicides used in the establishment of a plantation in their water catchment. Atrazine was being sprayed in the Eucalyptus nitens plantation to kill the aggressive snowgrass weed. Atrazine is a teratogen and has been found to cause cancer of the ovaries, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and to suppress the immune system.
Lorinna residents persisted in claiming, ‘For us there is no safe level, no acceptable level…we have to make a stand for other areas.’ When forestry leaders claimed their pursuit of a chemical free environment was idealistic, the people of Lorinna argued that they were living an ideal.
Because of its isolation, in rugged north-west Tasmania, Lorinna has the potential to develop as Tasmania’s organically-grown food capital. However, to be approved as a bio-dynamic farm, soil and water must be free of all synthetic chemicals. Three and a half months after the spraying in the catchment, the atrazine levels at Lorinna exceeded the World Health Organisation’s safe level…
But because the atrazine was definitely there and there was a discrepancy, after the next rain a week or so later DELM authorised a dual sample. They took samples from a number of sites and sent one of each to Melbourne and Hobart laboratories. Forestry wanted to show how responsible t hey were and genuinely wanted to look at it and get it right. Paul Smith had used this 0.2 parts per billion benchmark and the next result was way over. It was 9.3 parts per billion; nearly five times the World Health Organisation allowable limit. Forestry now had to come up with some story to destroy the position they had created for us. So they said it’s OK for short term exposure.