2009 March: Hobart – Derwent River. Pesticide Detected: Hexazinone and Atrazine

27/9/06: Derwent River Atrazine: 0.08ug/L (Tim Morris MP FoI)

March 2009 Hexazinone Hobart Water Supply

The State Government says there’s no need to be alarmed but small amounts of a herbicide called hexazinone have been found in Hobart’s drinking water supply and it’s likely forestry operations are to blame. The Greens says it’s a public health risk but the Government says the levels aren’t high enough to cause harm.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Herbicides have been found in Hobart’s drinking water. The State Government says it’s likely the chemicals have come from a pine plantation.

The Tasmanian Greens say public health has been put at risk. But the Government says level of the herbicides found in the water isn’t high enough to be a health concern.

Felicity Ogilvie reports from Hobart.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Hobart’s drinking water comes from the Derwent River. And the river contains more things than water; a herbicide called Hexazinone has been found at one of the city’s water treatment plants.

Earlier this week the Primary Industries Minister, David Llewellyn, told State Parliament the herbicide has probably come from a pine plantation that’s near the river.

DAVID LLEWELLYN: As such my department is working with forestry companies in the area to examine practices and identify any measures that can be implemented to mitigate the chance of contamination in the future.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Tim Morris from the Tasmanian Greens wants the herbicide banned.

TIM MORRIS: These chemicals can potentially impact on the reproductive system in humans, and that is the real worry here.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The Hexazinone was found in the river on the 26th of February. No public health warning was issued.

Mr Llewellyn says that’s because the level of the chemical was too low to be a health risk.

DAVID LLEWELLYN: This detection is well below the guideline and health value and our colleagues in the Health Department advise that this detection presents no public health risk.

TIM MORRIS: What we have is evidence from the United States which suggests that these chemicals are potentially harmful for humans.

At much, much lower levels, in fact parts per trillion.

FELICITY OGILVIE: The State Government says there’s no risk because the herbicide levels haven’t exceeded Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Stuart Heggie is the state manager of environmental health.

STUART HEGGIE: The level at which this chemical does become a public health risk is if it is detected in drinking water at the level of 300 parts per billion.

The detection that was found earlier this year was at 1.02. So that is not at a level at which it becomes a public health risk.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Hexazinone isn’t the only herbicide that’s been found in Hobart’s drinking water supply. Last September small amounts of Atrazine were found in the Derwent River.

Tim Morris says the source of the contamination needs to be found.

TIM MORRIS: The Government has not disclosed where these chemicals have come from. They say it’s highly likely that the chemical detection found in Hobart’s water was from a forestry pine plantation redevelopment operation.

But they were not willing to confirm it.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Hobart Water says it will continue testing the drinking water it gets from the Derwent River.