May 29, 2009 12:00am
CHEMICAL contamination that caused gross deformities to millions of fish larvae may be more widespread in Noosa waterways than first thought.
Data from the Department of Primary Industries showing chemical contamination in Cooloothin Creek was released two weeks ago but the State Government has been playing down the find, saying the levels are so low as to be insignificant.
However, the scientist who alerted authorities to problems said yesterday that it was likely Kin Kin Creek also was contaminated.
The agricultural chemicals carbendazim, atrazine and metolachlor were found near the Sunland Fish Hatchery by the DPI’s Noosa Fish Health Taskforce scientists.
University of Sydney scientist Matt Landos said yesterday he suspected the fish that gave rise to the two-headed bass probably came out of Kin Kin Creek and into Lake Cootharaba as part of their spawning run and were then caught and taken to the hatchery where abnormalities were discovered.
“Far from this river being cleared of pesticide impacts on its aquatic ecosystem, the recent finding demonstrates pollution of waterways from agri-chemicals continues unabated,” Dr Landos said.
It showed that farmers were most likely not misusing chemicals but the chemicals’ use was not properly regulated. Carbendazim, was first identified in October last year by Dr Landos and DPI fish pathologist Dr Roger Chong as being a cause for mutations.
Carbendazim had probably been in the river system in much higher levels at some time.
Dr Landos said if the detection was the result of earlier spraying, then the Federal Government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority had seriously underestimated carbendazim’s environmental persistence.
APVMA spokesman Simon Cubit said the three chemicals were found in such low readings as to be almost negligible.
“Whether or not they are persistent in the environment cannot be concluded at this time,” Dr Cubit said. “We’d need to know what spraying took place.”
Dr Landos said it was irrelevant that chemical levels were low. The point was they should never have been in the water.
The APVMA would announce the results of a review of carbendazim, which has been linked to birth and reproductive defects, some time this year.