In April 2011 vegetation and trees within one kilometre of an area near Magowar Road, Girraween suffered symptoms of dieback. An initial investigation by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) found that the dieback was due to a herbicide, called Metsulfuron-methyl. This type of herbicide is manufactured by Du Pont (Australia) Ltd at 179 Magowar Road, Girraween. The EPA and the Ministry of Health assessed the impact and advised affected residents that the herbicide identified was of very low toxicity to humans. After an extensive investigation, the EPA commenced a prosecution of Du Pont in the Land and Environment Court over the incident.
See a map of the affected area (TreeDiebackGirraween.pdf, 174KB).
As a result of the herbicide incident, a number of large trees in the area died and posed a risk to local residents. On 23 November 2011, NSW Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker, announced that the government had authorised funding of up to $200,000 from the Environmental Trust's Emergency Clean Up and Orphan Waste fund to assist in the removal of a number of large and dangerous trees.
The program is being managed by the EPA and Holroyd City Council and will involve the assessment of a number of trees and the provision of funds to assist with the costs of trimming, or removal and disposal of dangerous trees affected by the herbicide. The program's objective is to manage trees that are greater than 3.6 metres and are assessed by the Holroyd City Council/ EPA engaged arborist as being dangerous, as they are posing a serious risk of falling, or have limbs falling on a residential house or residents. Details of the program can be found on the Girraween vegetation dieback incident page.
Please contact Environment Line on 131 555 if you require any further information.
Frequently asked questions
I am in the affected area, what killed some of the trees and my vegetable patch?
The EPA suspects many of the dead or dying trees in the area have been affected by herbicides. Such herbicides are used on grain crops, and are designed to target broad-leaf plants, for weed control.
Concerns about human health or pets
The advice from the NSW Ministry of Health is that the herbicides have very low toxicity to humans. High levels of the herbicide at direct contact can irritate eyes or skin, but the current levels detected in the neighbourhood pose no risk to human health.
Based on the information available to the EPA, the suspected herbicide has low risk of harm to mammals including dogs and cats. If you have any further inquiries regarding health issues, you should contact the Western Sydney Public Health Unit on 9840 3603.
Concerns about using soil to grow vegetables
Based on the information provided to the EPA, the suspected herbicides have relative low persistence in soil and therefore break down readily. The suspected herbicides are also relatively soluble in water.
What is the EPA doing about this?
The EPA issued a Prevention Notice to Du Pont requiring the company to investigate and report back on its pollution controls. The EPA worked closely with the NSW Ministry of Health to assess and monitor the risk to health and the environment. It has also taken and tested a large number of samples from affected trees. The EPA has also varied Du Pont’s environment protection licence to require it to undertake an Herbicide Environment Protection Study.
Who to call if you have further information that may assist the investigation?
Please make a report if you have further information that may assist the investigation or other concerns and an EPA officer will contact you shortly to discuss.
Letters to the community
Letter to residents: legal proceedings dropped - 11 July 2013
OEH/EPA media releases
Du Pont asked to explain Girraween dieback
EPA commences prosecution against DuPont after months of intensive investigations
Ministry of Health media release
Media statement to Parramatta Advertiser
Ministerial media release
Government to fund removal of dead and dying trees in Girraween