Reporting spray drift of agricultural chemicals
Have you experienced spray drift of agricultural chemicals from a third party? The following information explains what to do if you suspect chemical spray drift has occurred on your property.
Agricultural chemicals are commonly used in primary production to protect crops from unwanted weeds, pests and diseases. Chemical users need to be aware of the impact inappropriate spray practices can have on non-target crops, stock and land. This is particularly the case when the neighbouring property is used for a crop sensitive to damage, such as a vineyard, or at risk of having a residue issue, such as a certified organic property.
Agricultural chemicals are commonly used in primary production to protect crops from unwanted weeds, pests and diseases.
Chemical users need to be aware of the impact inappropriate spray practices can have on non-target crops, stock and land.
This is particularly the case when the neighbouring property is used for a crop sensitive to damage, such as a vineyard, or at risk of having a residue issue, such as a certified organic property.
Should a property experience spray drift, producers need to be aware of what they can do to report the issue and manage the consequences.
Often, misunderstandings and conflicts regarding chemical use can be avoided through simple communication.
It is good practice for chemical users to inform their neighbours of their intention to spray, as this provides them with the opportunity to implement protective measures on their property and discuss any concerns or issues.
Neighbours should inform chemical users of any sensitive areas on their property, such as beehives, organic crops, dams and vines so that they can take these into account when planning spray applications.
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) webpages Reducing drift using buffer zones and vegetative barriers and Off-target spray drift: uncontrolled, unnecessary, unacceptable contain further information on actions you can take to minimise the chance of spray drift occurring.
Spray drift legislation
Chemical users have a legal obligation to ensure that they manage their use of agricultural chemicals appropriately.
Under the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act 1992, it is an offence to undertake agricultural spraying which:
- injures any plants of economic value, or stock outside the target area
- injures any land outside the target area so that growing plants or keeping stock on the land may result in contamination of any produce derived from the stock or plants, or the stock themselves
- contaminates any stock outside the target area
- is likely to contaminate any agricultural produce derived from plants or stock outside the target area.
These laws aim to protect primary producers from inappropriate chemical use and enhance Victoria's reputation as a producer of clean, fresh produce.
The definition of contaminated produce under the Act is restricted to produce which is offered for sale that has a residue level above the maximum residue limit (MRL) set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) or the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).
Detections under the MRL in an organic situation are a civil matter and should be pursued appropriately.
In terms of injury to land outside the target area, spraydrift may occur where it does not lead to a risk of contamination of any produce or stock grown on the affected land. Matters such as this may be investigated by other government agencies.
DEPI does not conduct investigations for the purpose of supporting civil action taken by an affected person.
DEPI also cannot investigate spray drift where the complainant feels that there has been a detrimental impact on their health, air and water quality or worker safety. These issues may be investigated by other government agencies that hold the statutory authority, technical knowledge and resources to address these concerns.
Spray drift has occurred – what should you do?
In the event that your crops, stock, or land has been subjected to spray drift caused by agricultural chemicals, you need to immediately report the incident to the DEPI Chemical Standards Officer in your area. Chemical Standards Officer details are listed under 'Further information'. You may be advised by the Chemical Standards Officer to take samples of the affected produce, or to take digital photo's etc as an aid to any potential investigation that is subsequently launched. If an investigation is launched, you will be asked to provide a witness statement and be prepared to give evidence in court.
Public health issues
Individuals with public health concerns relating to agricultural chemical spray drift should contact the Environmental Health Officer at their local municipal council. Whenever a health concern is raised it is also essential to discuss the issue with a Doctor as soon as possible.
For emergencies, customers should contact the Victorian Poisons Information Centre, open 24 hours, 7 days a week on 13 11 26.
Occupational Health and Safety
In the event of workplace occupational health and safety issues, contact your nearest Worksafe agency.
Worksafe contact phone numbers: 1800 136 089 (Toll Free) or (03) 9641 1444.
For environmental enquiries including pollution, contaminated land and chemical misplacement, refer the caller to EPA.
EPA 24 hour contact number: 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842) or email email@example.com
- Better Health Channel website- Chemicals - coping with spray drift
- WorkSafe Victoria website
- Environment Protection Authority Victoria website
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand website
- Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority website
DEPI Chemical Standards Officers
Fax: (03) 5430 4590
|Steve Field||(03) 5430 4463|
|Alex Perera||(03) 5430 4591|
|Felicity Collins||(03) 5833 5203|
|Neil Harrison||(03) 5336 6616|
|Jane Rhodes||(03) 5147 0832|
Enquiries from other regions should be directed to the nearest of the above-named regional officers.