Jimboomba Times, August 15, 2012

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection should be ashamed of themselves.  First they wait 6 weeks to conduct soil and water testing, giving the offenders time to hide their tracks. Then they release their meaningless data and lecture the residents as if we are children.  They also imply that we are too stupid to read directions on packaged garden products and therefore need ‘educating’, giving further credence to the unfounded accusation we’ve heard many times that someone in the neighborhood (‘person or persons unknown’ was the term used) is deliberately poisoning birds. 

Understandably, the residents have little faith in the process, and that is the reason we decided to publish this blog.  We are sick of the misinformation and spin, and are tired of having the JT control the debate.  My response, published in the Jimboomba Times on August 22, can be viewed on the blogpost carrying that date.

And here is another resident’s response:

According to the Material Data Safety Sheet for Chlorpyrofos, the withholding period between spray being applied and harvesting is 5 days for cucumbers.  The maximum withholding period is for stock feed that has been sprayed is 28 days).  These times allow for the chemical to break down and dissipate.  The fact that the chemical may be safe after these withholding times does not diminish from the fact that these chemicals are dangerous when sprayed, and they pose risks for some time afterwards.

At Harvest Road, spraying activities were observed on 10th  to 14th June 2012.  Birds died 14th to 17th of June 2012.  EHP went on site and took samples on 27th July 2012, more than 42 days after the spraying activities were observed.  In this case, “Absence of proof is not proof of absence.” (William Cowper).

So one may well ask “What is the point of conducting testing 6 weeks after the event?” EHP’s actions in this case are best described in the words of Thomas Sowell, “You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing”.

The following quote from EHP appears to me to be weasel words;  “EHP tested for 39 organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides including chlorpyrofos, which were all well below safe levels”.  This is far from an emphatic statement that no dangerous chemicals were found, and in fact implies very clearly that something was found, albeit at “safe levels” at that time.  We don’t know what the levels were before this time.

The fact that any agricultural chemical was found at all on a property only 10 metres from a  neighbouring residence  supports the argument that intensive agriculture enterprises should  not be located in the middle of a residential estate.  The key  point is that Logan City Council and State Government need to comply with State Planning Policy and the minimum requirements to “protect community health and safety”.  The guidelines already exist, it is time they were implemented; 300 metres between crops being sprayed and people’s home’s, or a 40 metre vegetated buffer zone.

David Hogan, 16 August, 2012

I do wonder about Mr Higgin’s motives in writing his letters.  Quite frankly, the two day course in chemical handling he refers to does not fill me with confidence.  And, oh dear! The poor farmers have to pay for these courses every five years.   Oh, well that must make everything alright then!   Respectfully, Mr Higgins, if these people want to set up farms right next to people’s homes, then use potentially dangerous agricultural chemicals, there needs to be a lot more oversight.  The ‘word’ of the farmers that they ‘play by the rules’ means nothing when we continue to see bird kills and other effects.  Mr Higgins’ final paragraph makes no sense at all. Apparently he thinks absorption via the skin and absorption via the lungs are the same thing. It’s hard to take seriously the views of someone who doesn’t seem able to think logically, especially when one looks at the evidence to the contrary shown in our posted videos that clearly show paralysed, dying, chemically poisoned magpies on a property located only 10-15 metes from the greenhouses.

The ‘only one species’ remark implies that something is fishy about only magpies dying in this incident.  The facts are that a flock of around 20 magpies regularly frequented this property, and around half of them died in the days immediately following 3 nights of 10PM to 1 AM activity on the farm.  (And as an aside, in a residential area, such activity should not occur after 8 PM or it is in contravention of noise restrictions and is considered ‘nuisance’.  Pity the poor neighbours trying to get some sleep with this industrial activity going on in the middle of the night.)

In the birdkill incident in Thompson Rd in November 2011, birds killed directly after spraying activity included magpies, kookaburras, parrots, ands domestic geese, ducks and chickens.  We have also been informed of other cases in this neighborhood of cows, kangaroos and dogs sickening and dying.  In all of these cases, the symptoms have included paralysis, foaming at the mouth, and bleeding from orifices.

Crystal Hogan continues to fight the good fight against Mr Higgin’s patronising epistles.  He thinks ‘a little knowledge can be dangerous’, and implies that the residents are ignorant and deluded.  Don’t we know the difference between killing soldiers with organophosphates and killing prisoners of war with organophosphates?  Sorry, Mr Higgins, but, soldier or prisoner, when poisoned by these agricultural chemicals, people still end up dead – and their status is irrelevent then, isn’t it? You yourself have written in the letters page of the JT that farmers have died from misusing these chemicals, and yet you expect us to blindly trust people using them near our homes after just TWO days of instruction in a certificate course.  I wouldn’t trust a driver on our roads with that length of training and no oversight, and agricultural chemicals are every bit as lethal to the community when misused as a vehicle is. I am sure you’d feel differently if it was your family and pets getting sick like so many of ours are.   As you don’t even live here in Greenbank (just like EVERY SINGLE OTHER CORRESPONDENT who has weighed into this issue in support of the farms), we wonder why you feel the need to continually criticise us, simply for seeking to make our living environment safe.

Perhaps, in your 35 years of farming, you yourself were a good neighbour and ethical farmer, but you have no evidence to prove the farms in question are not polluting our living environment.

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