2007 May: Priory (Tas) Plantation spray drift concerns.

Plantation company rejects spray claims

Plantation timber company Great Southern Plantations says it followed proper procedures during a ground-based spraying operation near St Helens on Tasmania’s east coast over the weekend.

Paula Michael, who lives at Priory, near St Helens, claims that she watched pesticide from the plantation spraying drift across the George River, which supplies St Helens’ water.

David Ikin from Great Southern Plantations has rejected the claim.

He says it’s not possible that the spray could have reached the river.

“We’d left a 25-metre buffer between where we were spraying and the river, the winds were very very light – in the order of about 5 kilometres an hour – and weather conditions were ideal,” he said.

“We’re satisfied that no spray would have got into the water.”

Mr Ikin says an experienced operator carried out the spraying.

Some residents are also upset about local council procedures for reporting water contamination, after Paula Michael claimed it took her several hours to get hold of the council to report the incident.

St Helens’ local GP, Alison Bleaney, is angry that the Break O’Day Council hasn’t made it easier for residents to report their concerns.

Dr Bleaney says the town has had water contamination problems in the past, and the council should have had better systems in place by now.

“There should be a Break O’Day Council emergency incident protocol, which says ‘phone this number if there is a problem'”, she said.

“We should be able to phone that number, that number should be manned and we should be able to tell the people who are in control whether it’s water or sewage or whatever the problem is.”

The Break O’Day Mayor, Robert Legge, has vowed to fix the council’s emergency reporting system.

“I think the whole thing’s an absolute mess,” he said.

“If this is the case of what happened, that emergency numbers could not be contacted, then there’s something wrong with the system.”

Mr Legge says he’ll order immediate action to fix the reporting system.