2009 May: Cooloothin Creek (Qld). Pesticides: Carbendazim, Atrazine, Metolachlor

Source Courier Mail: May 20 2009

CHEMICAL contamination blamed for millions of fish larvae having two heads has been found in a creek at Noosa.

But the State Government is playing down the find, saying it is of such low levels as to be insignificant.

The agricultural chemicals carbendazim, atrazine and metolachlor were found near the Sunland Fish Hatchery by Noosa Fish Health Taskforce scientists.

Hatchery owner Gwen Gilson and neighbours have argued that chemical contamination, believed to be from a macadamia farm, had caused millions of fish larvae to become grossly deformed and caused a cancer cluster among residents.

National Toxics Network spokeswoman Jo Immig, who has called for bans on carbendazim and endosulfan, said the findings confirmed her fears.

“We’re pleased they are at low levels but that doesn’t excuse their presence there at all,” Ms Immig said. “This is just one detection. How often does this go on?

“There are serious concerns about carbendazim and it is linked to birth defects. It shouldn’t be used.

Atrazine also has been under the spotlight because it is an endocrine disruptor (a chemical that interferes with hormones) at very minute levels and is recognised in Europe as such.

“Atrazine has been linked as a breast and prostate cancer promoter.

“Any level of metolachlor in rivers is concerning because of evidence that it persists in the environment and bioaccumulates in edible species of fish. Its adverse effect on growth and development raises concerns on its effects on human health.”

DPI Minister Tim Mulherin said the chemicals were found in Cooloothin Creek, a waterway that borders the hatchery and the macadamia farm.

“The levels of chemicals detected were extremely low, are not a risk to human health and are well within relevant guidelines for such a setting,” Mr Mulherin said.

Samples taken upstream, closer to the two properties, did not detect agricultural chemicals.

Levels found were carbendazim at 0.4 of a nanogram per litre, atrazine at 9.65ng/L and metolachlor at 14.75ng/L.

A nanogram is one billionth of a gram. For carbendazim the level is roughly equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a litre of water then divided by 2500 million.

Sunshine Coast Central Area Population Health Unit spokesman Andrew Langley said the readings were negligible.

“The results do not indicate that there is a risk to human health from drinking the water or recreational use of the water,” he said.

Mr Mulherin said the source of the chemicals was yet to be determined.