AN angry motorcyclist who was sprayed with chemicals from a crop duster has voiced his frustration at the lack of accountability from multiple government bodies.
Adrian McVeigh was riding with a group of seven people travelling along Benjeroop-Tresco Road on his way to the Murrabit Country Market when he noticed a low flying crop duster.
“He was very low, I actually thought he was going to try and land on the road,” Mr McVeigh said.
“I was approaching a bend and just before I entered it my visor was obscured by the chemicals the crop duster released.
“Of the seven in our riding group, four of us were covered from head to toe.”
While Mr McVeigh was concerned enough about the incident to report it and visit a GP, it was actually the follow-up responses he received that left him frustrated and concerned.
“I really wasn’t too sure who the right reporting body would be but I felt it should be reported,” he said.
“Not just for the fact we were covered in chemicals while travelling on a public road, but because it could have caused me to have an accident as I entered the bend.
“I rang multiple places and each seemed to keep passing the buck and nobody seemed to believe it was their responsibility.
“What I did learn is there is more protection for crops and livestock in the event of this occurring than there is for people.”
Mr McVeigh said he contacted Gannawarra Shire Council, who advised it was not within local council power and recommended he contact the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) who then advised it was not an issue for them. Mr McVeigh now states the council is following up on the issue.
He also contacted the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) who put him in contact with the chemical standards officer.
He contacted VicRoads, who claimed no jurisdiction and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), who said their role was in relation to the plane only, not the chemical aspect.
Mr McVeigh also contacted WorkSafe Victoria as he felt the pilot may have been operating outside safe procedures and they informed him they could only investigate a matter that was happening now, not an incident that had already happened and was not continuing. He claims WorkSafe staff were rude and dismissive.
DEDJTR provided a list of chemicals sprayed and according to their safety data sheets they should not cause health effects but he suffered a headache for two days after the incident and is unsure if it was connected.
His motorcycle and helmet were both covered with the chemicals and he is concerned this could void warranty.
“I just don’t understand why there seems to be no duty of care,” Mr McVeigh said.
“I don’t know why he dropped the chemicals so close to the road knowing we were there.”
A spokesperson for DEDJTR responded to the claims saying aerial spraying of agricultural chemicals in Victoria is regulated by both the DEDJTR and CASA.
“Under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Act 1992 administered by DEDJTR, there are various restrictions in place regarding which chemicals can be applied by air and in which locations and circumstances,” the spokesperson said.
“These restrictions vary based on what individual chemical was used and how it was used.
“The Act also contains notification requirements when applying agricultural chemicals by air or mister within 200 metres of a school, hospital, aged care service or children’s service.
DEDJTR also said there were various offences that may apply (to breaches of the act) depending on what individual chemical was used and how it was used.
The penalties may range from $310 to $63,500.
According to DEDJTR it is not currently a requirement for sprayers to post a warning to alert passing civilians that spraying is taking place.
“The potential health impacts from spraydrift depends on the amount of drift, the toxicity of the chemical, the nature of exposure (inhalation or skin) and duration,” the spokesperson said.
Mr McVeigh said regardless of the circumstances he should never have been covered in chemicals from a plane.
“I was just enjoying a relaxing ride with friends to the local market, this should never happen,” he said.
DEDJTR can provide information to the public regarding chemicals used in spraying and their health risks.
More information on what to do if spraydrift has occurred can be accessed by visiting Agricultural Victoria website.
DEDJTR are continuing to assist Mr McVeigh in the matter.