2007 January: Mole Creek (Tas) Spraydrift: Pesticide: Glyphosate

Tassie farmers concerned about chemical drift

PM – Wednesday, 31 January , 2007  18:46:00

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

LISA MILLAR: A Tasmanian couple is worried that chemicals sprayed on a neighbouring forestry plantation have drifted across to their farm.

The two farmers who live near Mole Creek in the centre of the State were so overcome by the smell of the chemicals they fled their property.

The Tasmanian Greens say it’s the third complaint about spray drift they’ve received this week.

And it’s prompted the Greens to call on the Tasmanian Government to introduce chemical trespass laws and start more rigorous water testing.

Felicity Ogilvie reports.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Jackie Cox and Phil Greg’s farm joins a property that’s been sold to Great Southern Plantations.

The company will plant trees this winter that will eventually be harvested and turned into woodchips.

In order to prepare the land for planting the company has been using a tractor to spray weedkiller.

Jackie Cox says her husband suffered an asthma attack when the company started spraying its land on Monday.

JACCIE COX: Well I’d been told that if they were spraying that one of the things I could do was to set up some sheets to see if there was any coming this way. But by the time I came up and got back down there again with the sheets I could taste it in the back of my mouth.

So I put up the sheets and then I… and Phil had, my husband had stayed inside, because he has asthma, and we went out, we just had to go out.

FELICITY OGILVIE: David Ikin from Great Southern Plantations says the chemical used on the spray tractor is a standard weed killer.

DAVID IKIN: It’s a roundup type of chemical that’s commonly able to be purchased at the local hardware store, and that a lot of gardeners would use in their backyards and also virtually all farmers would use to control weeds.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Jackie Cox says the company told her the spraying was going to happen last week and says she had no warning before the tractor started spraying on Monday.

But David Ikin from Great Southern Plantations says calls were made.

DAVID IKIN: We’ve got logs of all the calls and they were aware of it.

Just the other thing that’s worth pointing out on that point is that we’re not required to tell them at all. If the farmer had been there instead of us as the neighbour, they probably would have just got on and done their spraying and not even informed their neighbour.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Jackie Cox is worried the chemicals will kill her garden and affect her drinking water.

JACKIE COX: The only water supply we have is rainwater, and if this stuff was drifting across our land, then it could easily be on the roof, and therefore getting into our water supply.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Kim Booth from the Tasmanian Greens says she should be worried.

KIM BOOTH: We have regular complaints to the office where people independently test their creeks or water tanks, and they come up with levels of these dangerous chemicals – cancer-causing chemicals, endochrome-disruptors that cause intergenerational harm – and leave a sleeper on a person, who may develop a cancer years after the event.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The Tasmanian Government says it will send its Spray Referral Unit to test the drinking water supply at the farm if an official complaint is made.

The Government says it’s also drafting a stricter code of practice for laws governing the spraying of chemicals in Tasmania.

LISA MILLAR: That’s Felicity Ogilvie reporting from Tasmania.