Thursday, 31 January 2019
UPDATE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
4 March 2019
Thank you to all the community members who attended the Open
House information session on Monday 25 February in Barwon Heads. Forty-five people attended the event over the
course of the afternoon. It was a great opportunity for representatives from
each agency to meet and speak to members of the Bellarine Peninsula community
and listen to their concerns.
We understand that there is still uncertainty or gaps in
some data and some test results; we're committed to working with those
concerned to explore and help resolve this. In speaking to people it has become
clear that many of these concerns have been very long-standing. We apologise
that it has taken so long to be able to bring everyone together. We do hope
that this process is the beginning of a longer engagement that helps us all
The Department of Health and Human Services and other
agencies will follow up directly with those who provided their contact details
or who make direct enquiries. After this, all agencies will assess any new
information to see what further actions are possible or appropriate. We
certainly feel that there are some specific queries that can and will be
responded to and we encourage a collaborative approach with the community in
fact-finding. We're very happy to support those who are undertaking their own
explorations and to work with them to help make sense of any findings.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
dieldrin, its historic use and its health impact
Dieldrin is a manufactured
‘organochlorine’ insecticide that was used worldwide in agriculture to protect
crops from insect pests. It was also
an effective control for termites in houses. Dieldrin works by interfering with
the central nervous system of insects.
It is toxic to aquatic organisms and other wildlife and accumulates in the
Dieldrin sticks to soil and
breaks down slowly. The levels in soil reduce by half approximately every 5 to
7 years. Dieldrin was prohibited for
use and sale in Victoria in 1987.
is dieldrin found?
Dieldrin at low levels may
still be present in soil in areas where it was used as a pesticide. It may also
be attached to dust particles. Dieldrin
does not dissolve in water very well and was therefore not found in water at
high concentrations. When
dieldrin was used in agriculture, the main route of exposure occurred by eating
contaminated food, including root crops,
dairy products and meat. People who live in homes that were treated for
termites using dieldrin may also have
potentially been exposed.
Because of the way dieldrin
breaks down and the length of time since it was last used, the amount of
dieldrin still present in the environment
has significantly reduced since 1987.
are the health effects of exposure to dieldrin?
When dieldrin was used in
agriculture, accidental exposure could cause health effects including headache,
nausea, vomiting, dizziness,
light-headedness and fainting. There have been cases where people have been
poisoned and died after swallowing large
amounts of dieldrin (intentionally or accidently). These health effects of
dieldrin are no longer relevant since it is
not used and not available to buy.
dieldrin linked to cancer?
The most widely recognised
classification of cancer risk from environmental factors comes from the World
Health Organisation’s (WHO)
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This agency assesses the
risk of human cancer from
environmental factors including chemicals, occupational exposures, biological
agents and lifestyle factors. In 1987,
the IARC determined that dieldrin was ‘not classifiable as to human
carcinogenicity’. However, when dieldrin was
last reviewed by the IARC in 2016, its classification was changed to ‘a
probable carcinogen’ based on
‘limited evidence’ for breast cancer in humans and ‘sufficient evidence’ for
liver cancer in experimental animals. Some
pesticides (like DDT) have previously been associated with non-Hodgkin
lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic
leukaemia and multiple myeloma. However, this association has not been found
were farms on the Bellarine Peninsula tested for dieldrin and other
Land on the Bellarine
Peninsula has a history of potato growing and in some cases this included the
use of dieldrin to control insects. It is
understood farmers often rotated paddock use between potato cropping and sown
grass or pasture for grazing cattle.
In 1987, dieldrin was detected in export beef consignments sent to the United
States, resulting in the imposition
of trade restrictions. Since then the Victorian Government has undertaken extensive monitoring to identify
properties with contamination and, working closely with the livestock industry,
to manage the risk of residues
transferring into beef products.
is responsible for testing (contaminated) land and approving its future
The Environment Protection
Authority Victoria (EPA)
recommends that any buyer of land undertake their own independent sampling of any
land for contaminants if they are worried about past land use. The City of
Greater Geelong Planning
Scheme has applied soil assessment requirements for all major residential
growth areas. If significant
levels of contamination are found, this would trigger the full requirements of
the Environment Protection Act
does some land get tested and some not?
The planning scheme is the
primary means for regulating land use and approving development. It is an important mechanism for
triggering the consideration of potentially contaminated land. The City of
Greater Geelong Planning Scheme
requires land contamination testing for planning scheme amendments or applications where
potentially contaminated land would be used for a sensitive use, such as for
residential development, schools,
childcare or public open space.
The EPA maintains a
Priority Sites Register, which lists sites with a Clean Up or Pollution
requiring actions to manage
or reduce the risk to human health and the environment from contamination.
These sites are identified
because land contamination may cause harm to human health or the environment
under the current use. In
some cases, the required actions include testing for contamination, and can
include clean-up of the
site, monitoring, and other controls.
including councils and government departments or agencies, may also undertake
for contamination as part
of ongoing due diligence, or in response to an issue or complaint.
is contaminated land tested and made safe for future use?
The Australian Government’s
National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure
[NEP(ASC)M] sets out how
contamination must be tested across Australia. The NEP(ASC)M lists
concentrations of chemicals
in soil, Health Investigation Levels (HIL), above which further health
and evaluation are required.
To determine whether a site
is safe for future use, the EPA has an established audit system. A statutory
provides for an environmental auditor appointed under the Environment
Protection Act 1970, to undertake an
independent assessment of the condition of a site and form an opinion about its
suitability for the
An audit of the condition
of a site may result in issuing either:
a Certificate of
Environmental Audit that indicates the auditor believes the site is suitable
beneficial use and that
there is no restriction on use of the site due to its environmental condition;
a Statement of
Environmental Audit that indicates that the auditor believes there is, or may
restriction on use of the
site due to its environmental condition. A Statement may include conditions
require remediation works
to be undertaken or places ongoing requirements on the site. A Statement
might also indicate that a
site is not suitable for any use, in which case the EPA will usually issue a
to require clean up or
management of that site.
grow produce on the Bellarine Peninsula – how can I reassure consumers
it is safe?
Chemical residue monitoring
programs under the National Residue Survey and by Agriculture Victoria
demonstrate a very high
level of compliance with residue standards in Australian produce.
Many producers participate
in Quality Assurance programs and routinely undertake chemical residue testing
of their produce to provide
assurance to themselves, and their customers, that their produce is not
You may wish to undertake
testing of your soil if you have reason to believe organochlorine chemicals may
have been used on your
property or if you feel this would provide additional assurance to you or your
For further information you
can contact your local Agriculture Victoria Chemical Standards Officer on 136
tests have been conducted on the Bellarine Peninsula?
The EPA has sampled several
locations in the Geelong region for organochlorines (the family of chemicals
includes dieldrin). Sites
at Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove, Leopold, Queenscliff, Moolap and Portarlington
been sampled in the past.
Since the 1990s there have been environmental audits at 21 sites across the
Peninsula, many of which
have included tests for organochlorine pesticides. The audits were found to
have low to
risks for organochlorines.
levels were found and what do they mean?
Soil testing revealed that
organochlorine pesticides, including dieldrin, were below the detection level
analytical test, which in
this case was 0.001 mg/kg. In Australia, the level of dieldrin in soil that
would trigger the
need for further
investigation is 6 mg/kg. The levels were all well below this ‘Health
Investigation Level’ or HIL,
which is the concentration
of a substance in soil, water or air that triggers further investigation and
determine whether there is
any risk to public health.
schools in the area and dieldrin testing
testing of land required for schools and by whom?
As part of the process of
acquiring land, the Victorian School Building Authority conducts comprehensive
contaminants to ensure that
each site is suitable for use as a school. Current government policy requires
from the Victorian
Government Land Monitor for all land acquisitions above a value of $750,000,
and this approval
investigating the suitability of the land. This includes: soil testing for
topographical features investigations; assessment of flora and fauna; and
Soil testing is undertaken
according to the EPA’s guidelines for school use, which is designated as
testing addresses a number
of potential risks, including contaminants harmful to human health such as
schools were tested?
Secondary College (Drysdale Campus) site was purchased in the late 1990s from the City
Geelong and was farming
land prior to its acquisition. The Department of Agriculture conducted tests on
land in the area of the
school site prior to the purchase of the land in the late 1990s. The results
contaminants were not
detected at harmful levels. The Education Department relied on these results to
that the land was suitable
for use as a school.
In 2016, in response to
community concern, the Geelong Council tested the oval adjacent to the Drysdale
In September 2018, the
Department of Education and Training commissioned independent tests on the soil
school. The results showed
no cause for concern about levels that could affect human health. Around the
time, WorkSafe conducted
separate soil testing of this school and found that concentrations of
well below guideline levels
for the protection of human health.
The Barwon Heads Primary
School site was purchased in 1946. The Department of Education and Training
understands that it was
grazing land prior to its purchase. In response to community concern, the
soil testing at this school in January 2019. The results showed no cause for
about levels that could
affect human health.
children and teachers attending these schools safe now?
The health and safety of
students and staff is the Department of Education and Training’s top priority.
be reassured that there has
been independent testing carried out at both school sites, confirming that are
contaminants such as
dieldrin in the soil at levels that could have potential health effects.
about other schools – are they routinely tested for chemicals such as dieldrin
in the soil?
The issue of dieldrin
contamination relates to prior historical agricultural use. Existing schools
are not routinely
tested for chemical
contamination. However, the Department of Education and Training takes health
and safety in
our schools extremely
seriously. Where there is any indication of a risk to health or safety in
appropriate investigations and employs conservative risk mitigation strategies,
assistance from technical
other schools on the Bellarine Peninsula be tested?
The testing for historical
chemical contamination is done before a school is built. This together with
recent soil tests
showing negligible levels
of any chemical of concern, the Department of Education and Training has no
plans for further testing
of school land on the Bellarine Peninsula. The requirements under the land
scheme remain applicable
for any amendments or applications where potentially contaminated land would be
Who can I talk to about
the topics above?
For more information about
land use, contaminated land, and environmental investigations visit:
more information about the
effects of dieldrin on
the environment and human health contact the
1300 372 842.
For more information about
the historic use of dieldrin in agriculture or the management of farming
soil residues contact
Agriculture Victoria on 136 186.
For information on schools
testing contact the Department of Education and Training on 1300 333 232.
About mosquito treatment on the Bellarine
When did mosquito
The Bellarine Shire began mosquito treatments around the Bellarine
Peninsula in 1984.
What chemicals are used in the City’s
mosquito management program?
We use a range of approved products to
control mosquito larvae. We do not use broad based pesticides in our
aerial treatment program.
The mosquito control products used in our
aerial treatments are Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) and s-Methoprene.
These products only affect mosquito larvae and do not harm people, pets and the
general environment. Both products are approved by the Australian Pesticides and
Veterinary Medicines Authority for mosquito management.
These products target aspects of the
mosquito biology and do not adversely affect humans, animals, other insects or
the environment. The products have limited residual properties and do not
magnify in the food chain.
Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) produces proteins that react with
cells of the gut lining of the mosquito and the infected mosquito stops feeding
within hours. s-methoprene is an insect hormone analogue, which when applied to larvae,
prevents the larvae from completing development to an adult.
Depending on the larval stage and breeding location of the mosquito, a decision is
made on which product to use.
Up until 1987 we also used a product called Abate, which was approved for the same purpose.
How are the
If breeding sites are easily accessible, ground crews can treat the
area manually. Breeding sites around townships like pits and drains are always
treated by ground based methods.
We have a permit from the Commonwealth Government (EPBC 2005/2132) that
allows aerial treatments for mosquito larvae to take place in RAMSAR protected
wetlands on the Bellarine Peninsula between 15 August and 15 March each year. This
involves dropping pellets from a helicopter into remote water bodies. Treating
mosquito breeding sites by aerial methods is effective in reaching areas that
are difficult to access. Aerial treatments only take place in the wetlands,
they do not occur over townships.
treatment undertaken at the Barwon Heads Village Park?
No aerial treatments have been undertaken at Village Park or anywhere
close to townships.
In response to community requests, isolated and targeted application of
pyrethrum (commonly found in personal insect repellents and household fly
sprays) was undertaken in sections of dense vegetation within the park. This
was to reduce adult mosquito populations and any reinfestation of nearby
wetlands. The last time this was done was in 2010.