Poison in water supply (Geelong Advertiser 25 August 2006) By Peter Begg.
Barwon Water has taken action against a pine plantation operator in one of its catchments after a poisonous herbicide was detected in drinking water. The water authority confirmed yesterday it took action against a plantation operator in April 2005.
In a first since the relevant act came into force, Barwon Water issued Hancock Victorian Plantations with a notice of Contravention for Water Protection. The water authority has since reached agreement with Hancock plantations not to use certain herbicides in its catchment areas. This followed low-level detection of the herbicide hexazinone in raw water samples from the Korweinguboora Reservoir catchment, near Ballarat.
Barwon Health said the amount of the herbicide detected in tests was such a low level that it did not threaten public health. Hancock plantations confirmed yesterday that they have since agreed to use other herbicides that were less persistent.
But environment group Friends of the Earth said yesterday the herbicide hexazinone had been used for a number of years, and there was little known about its long-term effects. A spokesman for Friends of the Earth, Anthony Amis, said the group learned about the pollution from a Freedom of Information request to Barwon Water. Mr Amis said information gained from the FoI showed Barwon Water had detected hexazinone on 34 seperate occasions since December 2004. “It has shown up consistently now for 18 months,” Mr Amis said. ‘Ten samples during that time have been detected at the inlet to the Moorabool Water Treatment Plant near Meredith.”
Barwon Water wrote to Hancock Victorian Plantations in April, 2005, informing the operator they were in ‘Contravention of Water Supply Protection”. Barwon Water executive manager water systems Carl Bicknell said yesterday that providing safe drinking water and protecting customers’ health were Barwon Water’s highest priorities.