Shock at level of river
SIMON BEVILACQUA - April 15, 2007
A TASMANIAN river which supplies drinking water to a popular
tourist town contained chemical levels five times above national
Traces of herbicides were found during the summer tourist season
in the George River, which is the water supply for St Helens
on the East Coast.
The poison, 2,4-D, was found at levels five times higher than
Australian drinking water guideline limits.
Another herbicide, MCPA, was detected in the George, and in
the Duck River near Smithton on the North-West Coast.
MCPA was recorded in the George over a number of days.
Australian and World Health Organisation standards list no acceptable
level of MCPA in drinking water.
St Helens general practitioner Alison Bleaney says she is shocked
by the lack of action on the findings.
"These chemicals were detected near the intake pipe for
St Helens water supply," Dr Bleaney said. "These are
toxic chemicals with real health concerns, particularly for
The Department of Primary Industries and Water detected the
chemicals in the George River during a flood-monitoring event
over four days in mid-February.
Last month, Water Minister David Llewellyn revealed 2,4-D was
detected for two hours in the George -- at times as high as
0.53 parts per billion.
This is five times the Australian drinking water guideline limit
of 0.1 ppb.
The Australian standards say if a guideline is breached steps
should be taken to find the source, stop further contamination
and consult health authorities.
"Exceeding the guideline value indicates that undesirable
contamination of drinking water has occurred," the Australian
"It does not necessarily indicate a hazard to public health."
Pregnant women are advised to avoid 2,4-D. Cases of soft tissue
sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Hodgkin's disease have been
linked with the herbicides such as MCPA but results are inconsistent.
DPIW testing in January also detected atrazine and hexazinone
in north-western rivers.