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Byron Shire
June 20, 2021

Group claims ‘agent orange’ stored at Uki spring water site

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A photograph of the Rowlands Creek Road property taken in the 1960s that the group Tweed Water Alliance says shows a poisons shed adjacent to the site of the bore. Photo TWA
A photograph of the Rowlands Creek Road property taken in the 1960s that the group Tweed Water Alliance says shows a poisons shed adjacent to the site of the bore. Photo TWA

The group Tweed Water Alliance (TWA) has made the startling claim that a shed adjacent to former Wran government minister Jack Hallam’s proposed spring-water site at Uki once stored the active ingredients of the now-banned defoliant Agent Orange.

Spokesperson for the group, Jeremy Tager, told Echonetdaily he’d had contact with a former owner of the property, who said the pesticides 2,4 D and 2,4,5 T, which were routinely used by farmers in the 1960s, were stored in the shed and sprayed around the property.

Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam war as a chemical weapon, contains equal parts of the two herbicides, one of which has been banned in Australia since the 1980s.

Both compounds contain traces of dioxin, which can persist in the environment for many years, and which has been found to be highly toxic, even in moderate amounts.

TWA said that in his application, Mr Hallam, who plans to sell the water from his aquifer in Rowlands Creek Road for commercial bottling in Queensland, claimed there had been no activities on the site that could lead to contamination.

‘Mr Hallam obviously did not make even basic enquiries about the historical use of chemicals on the land and for him to claim, without evidence, that contamination was of no concern, is deeply misleading,’ Tager said.

‘There are many in this area who could have given him a more accurate history if he’d cared to ask or investigate.’

‘The Tweed Water Alliance is asking the Tweed Shire Council (TSC) to require contamination testing of the land before the Development Application proceeds any further,’ Mr Tager said.

A spokesperson for TSC said, ‘Council is not aware of any specific request for a contamination report unless it has been raised in the public submissions which have not been fully assessed at this point.’

‘As part of the ongoing council assessment of the DA, council will be requesting more detail on water testing,’ the spokesperson said.

Echonetdaily has as yet been unable to independently confirm Mr Tager’s claims.


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    • Former defence sites were subjected to rigorous testing for full range of contaminants before release for public use in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The sort of evidence provided here of possible contaminants is the type of information that must be investigated before any approvals are processed.

      • The former owner of the land ran a dairy farm for decades there. That person, and eight family members, have lived or currently live opposite the land. These chemicals were actively promoted by government to prevent cattle tick infestations and control noxious weeds, until banned.

  1. There was certainly 2,4 D and 2,4,5 T being sprayed up to the late 80’s. Tweed Council freely used to spray the sides of the roads with the stuff and it was even aerially sprayed in Byrrill Creek for groundsell up to the late 80’s and residents and friends, me included, protested with blockades from stopping council workers entering areas to spray. These pesticides were banned after this in the Tweed Shire but wouldn’t surprise me that many farms would have had a stock pile of the poison…still. This was the Roundup of the day but much more potent. This stuff use to kill trees and people were getting sick from the aerial drift hence the protest and blockade. This article seems very plausible and there’s probably stashes here and there around the Tweed Valley and other areas of Oz.

  2. The proposal is for a similar amount of water extraction as every farmer in the area uses each year – with no complaints forthcoming. People who go off half cocked opposing everything don’t help the northern rivers community to appear as anything else to the wider community. The real environmental issue is the use of disposable plastic bottles. Focus on that.

    • Thank you Shane, certainly the plastic bottle waste is a major issue. However, living in a rural area, the reliance of eco-systems and residents on streams and creeks is undeniable. Every landholder is entitled to extract small amounts of groundwater through a domestic/stock water bore. Typically an allocation of less than 10 megalitres is ample for a rural residential property. Think vegetable gardens, fruit trees, kid’s ponies, car washing, lawn areas. Larger rural holdings, that is larger land areas, in the northern rivers, often have surface water able to be accessed (creeks, dams). There are six dairy farms, all either accessing the rivers or groundwater bores and the run off from irrigating their pastures returns to groundwater.

      Perhaps you are unaware that commercial aquifer extractions, exported to Queensland for bottling, are unmetered and therefore unmonitored. Despite mandatory conditions of metering or logbook annual returns, these are not enforced. No mapping and estimation of aquifer capacity, or total extractions, have been undertaken. All aquifers are recharged by rainfall, thus in years of low rainfall the risk of over-extraction is high.

      One approval alone is allowed to extract 233 megalitres – think about that as 233 million x 1 litres bottles of water, sold and sent interstate. When aquifers collapse, creeks run dry and dependent eco-systems collapse. All these statements appear on the NSW Office of Water’s website – not just from half-cocked local protestors.


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