After paying the compensation, he said, the industry would try to seek out who was responsible for incorrect spraying practices which had led to the contamination and to recoup the money from them. “There’s a lot of anger in the cotton industry,” Mr Punch said.
The announcement from the cotton industry came as it emerged that levels of the insecticide endosulfan have been found in drinking water in cotton-growing areas of southern Queensland at almost 20 times the recommended safety limit.
Tests by the Condamine-Balonne Water Committee, a government body, found an endosulfan level of 0.9 ug/L (micrograms per litre) in the Loudoun Weir last January, at the peak of the cotton-spraying season.
A recent review of the chemical by the Federal Government’s National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals said endosulfan concentrations “routinely exceed” criteria recommended to protect aquatic ecosystems.
Reported symptoms include severe headaches, asthma, muscle pain and fatigue. Ms Tracey McGeorge, a station manager, said she was admitted to hospital in Chinchilla recently after being exposed to spray drift. “I was convulsing and I was unable to speak,” Ms McGeorge said.
Mr Bill Zeller, a retired wheat farmer, is trying to sell his Darling Downs property and leave the area. Mr Zeller said he had medical advice that symptoms he regularly suffered – including lethargy, sleeplessness and body aches – arose from exposure to spray which drifted onto his property from nearby cotton farms.