Shocking scientific evidence reveals water downstream from blueberry farms tested up to 800 times above safe levels, and suggests up to a quarter of chemicals applied to blueberry farms are washing straight into our waterways and causing chemical chaos.
To help alarmed residents better understand the silent crisis engulfing our community we can now provide a link online to the full report.
Time-poor but still concerned? We're happy to walk through key parts of the report for you - so read on below:
Even though these reports might appear daunting at first, you can always read the Executive summary at the start of a report, and in some cases final conclusions, without having to trawl through detailed jargon in the bulk of a report.
Let's take a quick tour of the executive summary:
How badly-run are our local, state and federal governments? This bad: we have a runaway industry with huge water and chemical inputs, and yet scientists studying it have to admit from the outset we currently have no idea how bad the impacts are for our community.
If you think this is crazy, it's because it is.
Yes, it's great that expert scientists are finally researching the seriousness of our situation, but considering Coffs Harbour's history of birth defects due to banana pesticides in the 80s and 90s, it's really unfathomable, and frankly inexcusable, that intensive agriculture is allowed to get away - once again - with hurting our communities.
WHO KEEPS GIVING THESE INDUSTRIES A PASS? Everyone should be starting to wonder, and if they aren't maybe politely suggest to them it's their duty as a citizen living in a democracy.
Anyway back to the report.
Scientists: "it's totally obvious that rain is washing chemical pollutants from blueberry farms into local water sources. To be sure we tested downstream from places with, and without blueberry farms nearby and confirmed".
Scientists: "Just in case you're not sure, it's still totally obviously related to blueberry farms. Also, a quarter of samples were up to eight hundred times higher than is safe."
What's an 'ANZECC trigger value' you ask? A value above what is considered safe from harmful effects. If you want to know more, check out the Guidelines For Marine And Freshwater Quality.
In an observation that surprises no-one, rain washes pollutants from blueberry farms into creeks.
Scientists: "the more blueberry farms there are, the higher the pollutant levels in nearby waterways."
Scientists: "Up to one quarter of chemicals used on blueberry farms are estimated to wash straight into our waterways. Also, maybe we don't need to use so much in our intensive agricultural processes."
Scientists: "The rapid growth of blueberry farms are clearly linked to significant increases in pollution in our waterways, and we strongly recommend farms need to properly manage chemical runoff."
It seems clear doesn't it?
An explosion in unregulated blueberry farming across our region is polluting our waterways, we still don't know how bad it is for our residents and ecosystem, and we know that farms aren't doing anywhere near enough to be considered a responsible industry.
That completes our brief overview of the executive summary.
The rest of the report deals with the underlying scientific methods and results in detail, which we won't summarise here. However we encourage you to inform yourself, family and friends who may be affected by reading the original report from Southern Cross University.
A final point: the end of the report talks about management options, including using woodchip bioreactors, concentrated wetlands, plants, buffer zones and tail-water recovery systems.
So we do have intelligent, sophisticated and thoughtful solutions to manage the chemical fall-out of intensive agriculture.
The question then has to be asked:
After Coffs Harbour's history of damage from banana plantations, how do our deeply embedded local, state and national politicians and agricultural industry get away with what can only be considered a (in our opinion) reckless, lazy and greedy approach to intensive agriculture on the Coffs Coast?