Macquarie Valley monitoring program

We are undertaking proactive environmental monitoring for pesticides in targeted agricultural regions.

Building on the findings of a pilot program conducted from February to July 2021, monitoring recommenced in March 2023 at sites in the Narromine Local Government Area. The collection of seasonal data on the prevalence and types of pesticides in the environment is needed to support and justify the need for different regulatory approaches.

The 2023 monitoring program involves bulk deposition and vegetation sampling, which is done approximately fortnightly, and passive air sampling which is done approximately monthly.

How we are sampling

Bulk deposition samples, Mitchell HighwayBulk deposition sampling captures particles, such as dust particles, which settle out of the air or are dissolved in rainwater. The deposition sampler consists of a glass jug and glass funnel. The glass funnel is rinsed with demineralised water into the glass jug to capture any particles on the funnel. The water is then analysed for pesticides.

Vegetation sampling is only performed if pesticides are detected in the bulk deposition sample. This is because vegetation sampling is used to confirm whether any pesticides detected in the bulk deposition sampling are also found on vegetation. This sampling method captures dust and pesticide residues that have deposited on plant surfaces and pesticide residues inside the vegetation tissue. Leaves from peppercorn and kurrajong trees are collected and analysed for pesticides.

Peppercorn (Schinus molle) leaves
Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus) leaves

Passive air sampling captures deposited particulates and (semi)volatile pesticides within a foam disc treated with polyurethane and secured in a metal housing unit to protect it from sunlight and rain. The foam discs are replaced at monthly intervals.

Location of sample sites being monitored in 2023

Sample site address

Reference used in results tables

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

Mungeribar Lane, Trangie

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Wambianan Road, Gin Gin

Gin Gin

Railway St, Gilgandra

Gilgandra

Results of bulk deposition sampling and vegetation sampling during 2023 

Sampling date

Method

Pesticide detected

Concentration*

Location

29 November 2023

Bulk deposition
(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

13 November 2023

Results not yet available

Results not yet available

Results not yet available

Results not yet available

30 October 2023

Bulk deposition
(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

18 October 2023

Bulk deposition
(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

3 October 2023 

Bulk deposition
(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

 
Not detected  Not applicable  Not applicable 
18 September 2023  Bulk deposition
(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)
Not detected  Not applicable Not applicable
4 September 2023 

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples) 
Not detected  Not applicable  Not applicable 
 21 August 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples) 
Not detected  Not applicable  Not applicable

7 August 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

24 July 2023

Bulk deposition

simazine

Positive detection (not quantified)

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

 

 

simazine and tebuthiuron

Positive detection (not quantified)

Gilgandra

 

Vegetation

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

10 July 2023

Bulk deposition

 

 

atrazine and tebuthiuron

 

Positive detection (not quantified)

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

 

 

Vegetation

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

26 June 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

13 June 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

29 May 2023

Bulk deposition

simazine

Positive detection (not quantified)

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

 

Vegetation

simazine

32 ug/kg

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

15 May 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

1 May 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

(Sample from Gin Gin not analysed as sample container broke in transit to lab).

Not applicable

Not applicable

17 April 2023

No sampling undertaken

Not applicable

Not applicable

Not applicable

3 April 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

20 March 2023

Bulk deposition

(Vegetation not analysed as pesticides not detected in bulk deposition samples)

Not detected

Not applicable

Not applicable

*Concentration results where available are indicative only.

Results of passive air sampling during 2023

Sampling date

Method

Pesticide/s detected

Result

Location

18 October 2023

Passive air Sampling

diuron, pirimicarb, terbuthylazine and thiamethoxam (pendimethalin also tentatively identified by laboratory)

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

azoxystrobin, diuron, simazine, terbuthylazine and thiamethoxam (pendimethalin also tentatively identified by laboratory)

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Diuron and terbuthylazine (pendimethalin also tentatively identified by laboratory)

Positive

Gin Gin

pirimicarb and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gilgandra

18 September 2023

Passive air Sampling

2.4 D, atrazine, azoxystrobin, MCPA, pirimicarb, terbuthylazine

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

2.4 D, azoxystrobin, chlorpyrifos, diuron, MCPA, pirimicarb and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

2.4 D, diuron, MCPA, pirimicarb and tebuthiuron terbuthylazine

Positive

Gin Gin

MCPA, pirimicarb and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gilgandra

21 August 2023  Passive air sampling  2,4 D, atrazine, chlorpyrifos, diuron, MCPA, pirimicarb and terbuthlylazine Positive  Mitchell Highway, Trangie 
2,4 D, atrazine, chlorpyrifos, MCPA, simazine and terbuthlylazine  Positive  Mungeribar Ln, Trangie 
atrazine, MCPA, pirimicarb and terbuthlylazine (prothioconazole-desthio also tentatively identified by laboratory)  Positive  Gin Gin 
MCPA  Positive  Gilgandra 

24 July 2023

Passive air sampling

atrazine, MCPA, diuron and terbuthlylazine

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

atrazine, MCPA, simazine and terbuthlylazine

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

atrazine, MCPA and terbuthylazine

(atrazine-desethyl also tentatively identified by laboratory)

Positive

Gin Gin

MCPA and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gilgandra

26 June 2023

Passive air sampling

diuron, atrazine, propyzamide, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

diuron, atrazine, metolachlor, propyzamide, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

diuron, atrazine, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

atrazine, propazine, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gin Gin

atrazine, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gilgandra

29 May 2023

Passive air sampling

diuron, atrazine, metolachlor, propazine, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

diuron, atrazine, metolachlor, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

diuron, atrazine, metolachlor, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gin Gin

atrazine, simazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gilgandra

1 May 2023

Passive air sampling

diuron, atrazine, propyzamide and terbuthylazine

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

diuron, atrazine, dimethoate, and fluroxypyr-1-methylheptyl ester

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

atrazine and terbuthylazine

Positive

Gin Gin

atrazine

Positive Gilgandra

3 April 2023

Passive air sampling

diuron

Positive

Mitchell Highway, Trangie

diuron and imidacloprid

Positive

Gin Gin

The passive air sampling method identifies if pesticides are present in the sample and what types of pesticides are present. The results are either positive (pesticide detected) or negative (not detected).

A pilot monitoring program was conducted in the Macquarie Valley from February to July 2021 in response to community concerns regarding damage to vegetation including peppercorn and Kurrajong trees.

The aim of the program was to detect pesticides used in these local government areas and determine whether general agriculture practices, in particular defoliant use, could potentially impact on non-target vegetation. The pilot program was not designed to identify specific cases of spray drift.

Samples were collected at sites in Narromine, Trangie, Gilgandra and Warren using methods including bulk deposition sampling, passive air sampling, leaf sampling and leaf health/condition observations.

The pilot program monitored the presence of pesticides on vegetation, vegetation condition and the presence of pesticides in the air using:

  • bulk deposition sampling (where rainfall and/or deposited particles are collected) was conducted weekly
  • passive air sampling (where dry particles and semi-volatile pesticides absorb onto a treated polyurethane foam disc) was collected monthly
  • visual monitoring of vegetation condition to detect any changes that could be attributed to pesticide impacts, was conducted monthly
  • leaf sampling and analysis to detect pesticides on the surface of the vegetation was conducted weekly if pesticides were detected in bulk deposition samplers.

The bulk deposition and passive air samples were tested for more than 600 pesticides including a wide range of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides.

Location of sample sites monitored in 2021

Sample site address

Reference used in results tables

Mungeribar Lane, Trangie

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Wambianan Road, Gin Gin

Gin Gin

Railway St, Gilgandra

Gilgandra

Castlebar Road, Bundemar

Bundemar

Results of bulk deposition and vegetation sampling during 2021

69 samples were collected and analysed. The analysis detected 8 different pesticides. All pesticides detected are approved for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

Method Pesticide detected Times detected
(total of 69 samples)
Range of pesticide levels detected Location(s) detected

Bulk deposition

atrazine

9

0.03 - 1µg/L

Mungeribar Ln Trangie, Gin Gin, Bundemar, Gilgandra

Bulk deposition

carbendazim

1

0.1 µg/L

Gilgandra

Bulk deposition

ethephon

1

0.04 mg/L

Gin Gin, Bundemar

Bulk deposition

simazine

1

0.03 µg/L

Bundemar

Vegetation sampling

atrazine

3

8 – 11 µg/kg

Mungeribar Ln Trangie, Gilgandra

Vegetation sampling

diuron

2

13 – 17 µg/kg

Mungeribar Ln Trangie, Gilgandra

Vegetation sampling

ethephon

1

Positive detection (not quantified)

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Vegetation sampling

glyphosate

1

Positive detection (not quantified)

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

* Range of pesticide concentrations where provided are indicative only.

Results of passive air sampling during 2021

26 samples were collected and analysed from 5 locations. 38 positive results detected 6 pesticides.

Method Chemical Times detected
(total of 26 samples)
Range of pesticide levels detected

Locations

Passive air sampling

atrazine

12

Positive

Warren, Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Passive air sampling

diuron

7

Positive

Warren, Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Passive air sampling or samples

fluroxypyr-1-methylheptylester

2

Positive

Gilgrandra

Passive air sampling

metolachlor

5

Positive

Warren, Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Passive air sampling

propyzamide

5

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie

Passive air sampling

terbuthylazine

7

Positive

Mungeribar Ln, Trangie, Gilgandra, Warren

The passive sampling method identified if pesticides were present in the sample, and what types of pesticides were present. Results are either positive (pesticide detected) or negative (not detected).

Results of vegetation health monitoring during 2021

Vegetation health monitoring identified a slight increase in peppercorn tree canopy loss between May and July 2021 at the Trangie and Gilgandra monitoring sites. Leaf scorch on peppercorn trees were observed at all sites.

There was no change in canopy condition observed for kurrajong trees. Leaf scorch was observed on kurrajong trees at Trangie in July 2021.

Outcomes of the 2021 pilot sampling program

  • Pesticides were detected in each local government area.
  • Atrazine was the most common pesticide detected.
  • While slight changes in vegetation condition were observed, it is not possible to link these changes to pesticide overspray. 
  • While pesticides were detected in the bulk deposition and passive air samples, there is insufficient data to link the presence of pesticides to any potential harm to vegetation or people.
  • Further studies are needed to understand the impact of spraying activities on non-target vegetation.
  • The EPA, in consultation with the community, experts and key stakeholders, will design a study to further our understanding of pesticides and their potential impact on the community and environment.

Penalties for pesticide misuse

In NSW, it is illegal to use pesticides in a way that could injure people or cause damage or harm to properties, plants and animals that are not the target pest species.

Deliberate misuse of pesticides is a serious environmental crime, and we encourage everyone to make reports of suspected overspray immediately to the EPA to help us prosecute offenders. 

The EPA investigates all reports of suspected pesticide misuse made to us via the 24-hour Environment Line on 131 555.

Those found to have wilfully or negligently caused damage, harm or injury through pesticide misuse can face fines of up to $120,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a company under the Pesticides Act 1999.