The issues relating to pesticide usage in Break O’Day catchments were brought to a head in December 2003 when a helicopter, ostensibly carrying only the insecticide alpha-cypermethrin, crashed approximately 250m uphill from the South George River, a tributary of the George River (see Figure 2). The resultant spill of insecticide (and possibly aviation fuel) caused concern within the community as it was perceived that the incident was not managed effectively by authorities through the use of the authorized Incident Communication Protocol (ICP) 17.
advice given to the public regarding possible water contamination,including contamination of drinking water (Bleaney 2004). There was no pesticide monitoring of drinking water in the river system by authorities following the helicopter crash, until July 2004.
It is notable that 16 weeks after the crash and 11 weeks after a major flood (January 2004), an investigation by Department of Primary Industries,Water and Environment (DPIWE) 18 found alpha-cypermethrin, atrazine, simazine, terbacil 19 and chlorothalonil 20 in significant amounts at the crash site (See Appendix 1). The official explanation of this, given by the Registrar for Chemical Products (DPIWE), was that the helicopter spray tank had probably ruptured on impact and chemicals built up on the inside of the tank had leaked out.