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Turfmaster and the case of the 8000+ dead trees in Western Australia

WA Times Historic trees fall victim to spray program 17/6/07.

Weed firm axed after trees die The West Australian 17/8/07

Locals give council a spray Sep 07

Death of Trees in Stirling and Joondalup (WA)due to Hexazinone Herbicide in Sumps

also see Herbicide Yellows

Was DYMAC the herbicide culprit?

Historical Information

WA Times Historic trees fall victim to spray program 16/6/07.

A weed-spraying operation has backfired, killing historic trees around Perth and causing the death or decline of others in at least 74 locations, including some on private property.

The City of Stirling’s report into the incident said the council normally used Roundup every six months to control weeds in sumps.

But a decision was taken in 2004 to spray once a year with a longer-lasting herbicide, partly because sumps in the neighbouring City of Joondalup presented well and were sprayed annually.

But problems occurred six months after Stirling’s herbicide was changed to the chemical hexazinone in May last year. “City officers and residents started noticing deterioration in the condition of established trees and shrubs in and adjoining the sumps,” the report said.

And the city’s contractor, Turfmaster, warned that Joondalup was experiencing a significant stressing and loss of established vegetation next to its sumps.

Stirling’s tree expert advised the effect was probably due to hexazinone, compounded by drought and a dropping watertable. Stirling’s investigation found that trees and vegetation in sumps sprayed with hexazinone were dead or in severe decline.

“Though replacement planting could be undertaken using native vegetation, a number of the dead and declining trees were of a significant age class that categorised them as historic,” the report said.

In all 136 sumps had been sprayed, 74 of which required tree lopping or removal of dead vegetation, including dead or dying material in private properties adjoining 10 of the sumps.

The report recommended that herbicides such as hexazinone should not be used in sumps. It said the council should negotiate with the spray contractor to recover the cost for removing and replacing trees. Turfmaster director Kim Evans declined to comment.

The Health Department said Water Corporation tests indicated hexazinone was not in groundwater drinking bores in Stirling and Joondalup.

The Department of Environment and Conservation is still examining whether the chemical entered groundwater supplies. TORRANCE MENDEZ

Weed firm axed after trees die The West Australian 17/8/07 Amanda Banks

Joondalup City Council has sacked its weed sprayer amid investigations into thousands of tree deaths and concerns that groundwater in the northern suburbs may have been contaminated by strong herbicides.

The weed spraying contractor, Turfmaster, has refused to comment on the termination of its contract.

The council has refused to release a report on an investigation into the deaths of trees and vegetation.

The Department of Environment and Conservation is continuing a seperate inquiry after a spate of tree deaths in Joondalup and Stirling, including reports of dying mature tuarts possibly up to 200 years old.

Stirling also contracts its weed spraying to Turfmaster, with a council report in June revealing historic trees had been killed after its switched to the longer-lasting chemical herbicide hexazinone in May last year.

The DEC said the departments of health, agriculture and water, as well as the Water Corporation, were involved in its investigation.

The inquiry was examining whether the use of hexazinone, which was sprayed in drainage sumps in Joondalup and Stirling, had caused the tree deaths. There was also a detailed groundwater testing program.

The DEC said there did not appear to be any health concerns "at this stage" and all councils had been advised of the potential problems with the chemical, which was expected to break down over a few months.

Locals give council a spray - Sunday Times September 2007

Residents will call for a ban on weed spraying in the City of Stirling this week.

Chemical spraying has killed trees and shrubs near homes, parks and schools, locals say. They fear the spraying is threatening the health of children and hurting property prices.

Wayne Monks, chairman of Western Region Environment Network, said a group had formed after concerns over the damage when more than 100 sumps were sprayed by council contractors last year.

Residents had lost mature trees, including jacarandas and silky oaks. "They are aggrieved about this because it has destroyed the habitat and ameniuty of streets anbd, for some, it will affect the value of their properties," he said.

A City of Stirling spokesman said the plants died when contractors used the wrong herbicide during spraying last year.

Historical Information about Hexazinone

"In the early 1980s, many kilometres of mature roadside trees were killed by apparently inappropriate use of hexazinone to control roadside weeds in roads radiating from Hay (NSW). In another incident about the same time, hexazinone leaked out of a railway spray tanker at a Narrandera siding. Many large old London plane trees along the drainage line were killed or damaged (H.Fisher, NSW EPA, pers. comm)". p153 Pesticide Use in Australia - A Review undertaken by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

Ballarat overspray incident 1993/4

Adelaide drinking water polluted 1997/8

Geelong water polluted 2004-06