Impending Milford Sound 1080 drop (Southland Cleddau area)
By Sacha Stevenson
1080 – It’s nothing new to most Kiwis. Opinions are divided.
The last aerial drop of 1080 here was only two years ago. Before the last drop (although I wasn’t working in Milford at the time) there was some community consultation, including a Q & A session with the Department of Conservation (DoC) – the lead agency involved with the drop in this region. I understand some local workers and one Iwi objected, but the drop went ahead anyway, including into the public water supply catchment area.
The next drop in the Southland Cleddau/Milford Sound area is scheduled for between Aug 1st and Dec 2019 and, just like the Sept 2017 drop, this again includes dropping 1080 into the water supply.
(See map below clipped 4 July 2019 from the online DOC map.)
In my opinion, the community here has not had an honest open forum to voice their say on the next scheduled drop (and every opinion is valid) but much worse, even if we get to have our say, chances are high that the tourists will be left uninformed.
There are many aspects to this topic, many already discussed. One of the main aspects here being in regards to the Public Health Unit (PHU) VTA Permission and conditions statement and its lack of implementation here in Milford Sound, and the effect it may have on locals and tourists. I’m not a lawyer, but I see this as a legal and moral failing in our duty to protect tourists (and locals).
The Ministry of Health (the Ministry) is responsible for ensuring that the provisions of the Hazardous Substances & New Organisms (HSNO) Act are complied with where it is necessary to protect public health. The Public Health Unit (PHU) is legislated by the Ministry of Health, to approve permission and attach conditions to interested parties applying a VTA (Vertebrate Toxic Agent) in a public place. This applies especially to drops into (or near) a public water supply. Public Health South (PHS) processes and approves permissions for the Fiordland area.
Permission is required because VTAs (of which 1080 is one) are toxic to humans through acute poisoning and chronic exposure. 1080 is considered a hazardous substance, for good reason. (See link to 1080 effects at p7.)
The PHU have issued a mode HYPERLINK “https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/guidelines-issuing-permission-for-using-vertebrate-toxic-agents-march13.pdf”l statement form (see p32 onwards) with examples – which includes one for where a VTA is to be dropped into a public water supply.
Some things stand out for me with the model PHU permissions:
1) Full disclosure to users is expected, with signs and warnings (which would logically be placed at the point of possible consumption)(see conditions 19 & 20 pg47 of VTA permission guide.)
2) An alternate water supply should be offered, if requested, until testing has been completed. (Case example – Condition 25 p67 note ii and conditions 25 – 32 of VTA permission guide.)
Bowen River valley and public water supply catchment area (see red circled area)
Figure 1: (Map clipped 4 July 2019 from the online DOC map.)
Milford Sound is one of NZ’s iconic tourist locations. We have between 500 to 5000 guests per day visiting the Fiord, hosted by various companies across the different seasons. The large majority of tourists are foreign nationals, many of whom don’t speak or read English very well.
However, I’ve had contact with the public water supply company in the last week, confirming that they’ve had no warning about the upcoming use of 1080. (As at 24th July)
Not a good start.
Despite the lack of communication from DoC (the lead agency for this particular drop) and from the aerial application contractor, many of the workers here in Milford know the drop is now imminent.
I understand that some of the companies here are planning to make bottled water available for their staff, but none of them (as far as I know) are planning to offer bottled water to the tourists, or even to put notices up in the terminal or on the vessels to warn them of the 1080 drop – so they can choose for themselves whether they would like to drink the tap water or not.
I believe in ‘free will’ and I can understand some people believe the Government/DoC scientists when they say the water will be safe to drink. But there have been around 3% of positive tests for 1080 in water over the years, with at least 4 positive tests in drinking water, albeit in low concentrations. (See TBFree HYPERLINK “https://ospri.co.nz/assets/Uploads/Documents/How-1080-Breaks-Down-in-Soil-Water.pdf” info, p3.)
Knowing that 1080 is teratogenic (may cause birth defects) and with my partner being pregnant, I wouldn’t wish her to have any exposure whatsoever to 1080. I assume no foreign national in her position would wish to be exposed to that risk either. (See MOH Guidelines p7 re known 1080 effects.)
I am shocked that it appears that no one in Milford, including DoC, Milford Sound Tourism NZ (MST – the port operational company), Milford Sound Infrastructure ((MSI – the public water supply company), or the tourist companies providing vessels and the drinking water aboard them, is planning to at least inform the tourists that the water they may drink in the terminal and on board the vessels may potentially have a birth defect causing agent in it.
It is probably true that signs will likely be erected along the road into Milford, as we have seen done in various locations around NZ. But it is wrong to conclude that because those signs are at the rest areas, that foreigners will equate that with the drinking water in the terminal and on the boats being also potentially contaminated. One must remember, that many visitors can’t read English for a start, plus many come from areas where it is obvious that one doesn’t drink from any tap. Is it obvious here?
I would expect the duty of care and a minimum standard would mean that we’d firstly err on the side of caution. I would also assume that foreign governments would want us to set the minimum standard bar rather high when it comes to looking after the health and welfare of their citizens. As we would hope they do for our citizens when they’re abroad.
We know that the US and China for example, among others, take the safety of their citizens travelling overseas very seriously.
To add to the issues, Fiordland is a unique area in terms of its topography and rainfall. The Bowen River catchment valley is rather like a giant granite bath, with very little top soil, and average rainfall of 7000mm per annum. Together with winter temperatures, ice and snow melt, this will likely increase the risk of 1080 arriving at the intake at the same time and breaking down much more slowly. Further, according to TBFree HYPERLINK “https://ospri.co.nz/assets/Uploads/Documents/How-1080-Breaks-Down-in-Soil-Water.pdf” NZ:
“Biodegradation of 1080 is faster in warmer conditions (20degC), but still occurs at 5degC. At cooler temperatures rates of degradation are slower…..”
“Urgent samples for 24-hour turnaround testing may be sent unfrozen to the testing laboratory, but they must be chilled to 4°C and placed on ice as soon as possible after collection.”
Looking closer at Landcare’s testing regime (at 4.0): “Results will be available no later than 9.30 a.m. on the following day.” This means, at a minimum, no water should be drunk in Milford for 24hrs.
Do we need reminding that there is no antidote to 1080 poisoning?
It really seems easy to avoid the vast majority of the risks in this case. Just don’t drop 1080 in the water catchment area, meaning no 1080 to be aerially dropped in the Bowen River valley area of Milford Sound.
If DOC is so determined to go-ahead with the poison drop in the catchment area, then full disclosure to tourists should be made and an alternate drinking water supply offered (as per the model PHU statement example of 1080 in a public water supply).
It’s embarrassing that we call our country ‘Open and Inclusive’, ‘Clean Green’ etc and yet treat foreigners with this sort of disrespect.
For more info regarding our area, check out online the 2017 Southland HYPERLINK “https://www.epa.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Documents/Hazardous-Substances/1080-reports/1080-Operational-Reports/8c05e9d3da/2017-Southland-Cleddau-Report.pdf”Cleddau HYPERLINK
and the 2017 Southland HYPERLINK “https://www.epa.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/Documents/Hazardous-Substances/1080-reports/1080-Operational-Reports/ff456e54d8/2017-Southland-Cleddau-Map.pdf” which shows the GPS flight path of the 2017 1080 drop into the water catchment area.
Also of interest, according to the above Cleddau report; NO non-target species monitoring was undertaken. The water quality testing (pg 6 of DOC’s operational report 5.2.2) revealed the presence of 1080 at 1ppb.
I can tell you that as of writing, we have quite a few Kea (approx 20) hanging out in and around the village here in Milford.
Plenty of Wekas here as well, plus I’ve seen the odd NZ Falcon eating road kill on the drive into Milford.
I wonder how they will fare with the ‘Clean Green’ 1080 pellets raining down in the near future. Will anyone know if they’ve been affected?
To conclude: yes, opinions on the use of 1080 differ here, but no locals I’ve talked to think tourists shouldn’t at least be fully informed of what might be in their drinking water, to allow them their ‘Free Will’ to drink the local water or not.
Increase the peace
Skipper – Milford Sound
An update to this article can be found at this link.
RELATED: EWR links to articles on 1080 in water. Search for other articles on 1080 poison at the categories drop down box at the left of the news page.
If you are new to the 1080 poisoning program, here is a good article to start with …
A must watch also is Poisoning Paradise, the doco made by the GrafBoys (banned from screening on NZ TV, yet a 4x international award winner). Their website is tv-wild.com. Their doco is a very comprehensive overview with the independent science to illustrate the question marks that remain over the use of this poison. There are links also on our 1080 resources page to most of the groups, pages, sites etc that will provide you with further information.
Check out the 1080 pages at the main menu, particularly the sub tab, ‘suspected 1080 poisoning cases’. Finally, remember what the retired MD Charlie Baycroft said recently …‘if you die from 1080 poisoning, nobody will know because the Ministry of Health is bullying NZ Doctors into not testing for 1080′. EWR