Legislative Council Hansard

Monday 18 June 2007 - Estimates Committee B (Llewellyn)
Output Group 4

Water Monitoring for Chemicals

CHAIR - We now move on to Output Group 4, Water Resources, which covers water resource management and water resource assessment.

Mr FINCH- If I could ask a question on water monitoring for chemicals. Back in 2005, ASCHEM, the Agricultural, Silvicultural and Veterinary Chemicals Council, was involved in the taking of samples from 27 Tasmanian rivers and streams to be chemically analysed every 12 weeks. Is this still ongoing and what are the samples revealing to date?

Mr LLEWELLYN - It is still ongoing and we are monitoring particularly after rain events where obviously with run-off from properties and so on you are likely to receive more chemicals in the waterways. So that is happening. In June 2006 the network consisted of 55 monitoring stream flow stations in the State's rural catchments. The Government has recognised a further expansion of this network is required to enhance the availability and accessibility of surface water stream flow information. The Government has provided further funding under the SMART Farming initiative and has increased the number of stream flow monitoring stations to 80. We have had quarterly monitoring of 54 Tasmanian rivers and streams for a range of pesticides, monitoring for pesticide levels during flood events in the George, Esperance, Little Swanport and Duck Rivers. There is regular public reporting of these pesticide samples results via the department's website as soon as the results are available. To date there has been some indication in a couple of catchments of simazene or one of the atrazine varieties of herbicides in the Duck and Inglis Rivers and also MCPA and 24D - as distinct from 245T, which is Agent Orange - detected in the George River in mid-February revealing applications of MCPA on several properties that could have contributed to detection. The herbicide hexazion is made and used in the forest industry while atrazine can be used in both forestry and agricultural crops. But the levels were several magnitudes of level lower than the national health standards and very hard to detect. They were only detectable because of the improvement in technology that we have got to actually detect these samples. But we want to try to get to a point where we do not have any detection at all even though the detection that has been indicated to date is microscopic
Mr FINCH - Were there any areas of extreme concern in any of that testing?


Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - If there is a detection made, do they do a more regular check, like a follow-up check in a week, or something, rather than –

Mr LLEWELLYN - Yes, they have been doing that.

Mr HARRADINE - It is not my area but I do understand that when they find a positive result they do try to track it down through sampling upstream at other times to see whether it is an ongoing thing or if they can actually locate the source.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - I am just aware of the issues in the Break O'Day area and the community concerns there. I am really looking for community knowledge and information. I would have thought that it would be policy to re-test in a very quick manner
Mr LLEWELLYN - I do not have the briefing here but I do recall from the briefing that I was given on this particular matter that there has been repeat testing in the George River, for instance. There is a situation with the George catchment at the moment that I think -
Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - It is an ongoing issue, isn't it?

Mr LLEWELLYN - Yes, it is an ongoing issue where there is a tree farm being put in that is about three or four kilometres from the water intake for the town water supply. That tree plantation is along the verges of the river itself and there has obviously been a herbicide used to kill the grass associated with it.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Has that issue been addressed?

Mr LLEWELLYN - No. I have not seen the results of monitoring since that has occurred.

Mrs RATTRAY-WAGNER - Can we have those when they become available?

Mr LLEWELLYN - Yes. They are made public now on the website.

CHAIR - Are there any other water issues? We will now move to the Energy portfolio.