2016 July: Brunswick Heads Beach. Pesticide: Metsulfuron Methyl

Something in the air – and not in a good way

Anthea Amore, Byron Bay. (Letter Aug 2 2016)

On Thursday July 28 my husband and I were walking on Brunswick Heads beach around 8.30am at low tide from the surf life saving club. The beach was busy with many beach walkers and dogs on such a beautiful sunny winter’s morning.

About 20 minutes into our walk, going south towards Byron, my we detected a chemical smell in the air. It was quite strong and distinctive. My husband (who happens to be a chemical free bush regenerator) said that it smelled like glyphosate.

We continued to walk for 15 minutes and eventually turned around and, as we reached the same spot, the smell returned.  We got back to our car and took a sip of our filtered water and my husband said, ‘what’s wrong with the water?’ It was bitter and tasted like chemicals.

As we drove home the penny dropped and we realised we’d been poisoned by the large plume of chemical spray drift. I began to notice my lips were burnt, like I’d been wind burnt (I hadn’t been in the bright sun or wind for weeks). This burnt lips sensation and redness lasted all day. My eyes were sore and itchy and my breathing felt slightly laboured and heavy. Our skin tasted like a very bitter, acrid, chemical and it was all over our face, feet, hair and clothes.

A very pregnant woman and school children were on the beach in the time the spraying occurred. There must have been close to 100 people using the beach in the 1hour 15 minutes we were there.

I rang council when I got home and they suggested that National Parks and Wildlife Service(NPWS) were currently spraying the Tyagrah reserve. I rang the local NPWS to find out if they were spraying and of course they were. I spoke to them of my experience and lodged a complaint and I wanted to warn them how far their spraying was drifting.

There were no signs of warning on the Brunswick beach but I was told by Nigel Stewart (one of the local rangers I spoke to) that they would now start to use signs on Brunswick beach. I do hope this happens as I was informed that this spraying would last months! I wanted to let the community know about this so people could avoid the beach for the next couple of months (or hopefully when the signs are put out on display).

Today they were spraying Metsulfuon. (Metsulfuron-methyl is an organic compound classified as a sulfonylurea herbicide, which kills broadleaf weeds and some annual grasses. It is a systemic compound with foliar and soil activity, that inhibits cell division in shoots and roots).

To find out more and when the National Parks and Wildlife are spraying call 02 66 20 93 00. I suggest all who are interested call them.

Something in the air – and not in a good way