Chemical audit under way
By LEE McDOUGALL
A FULL audit on all chemical use, storage and handling is being conducted by Coffs Harbour City Council following the realisation this week that the council itself may be responsible for the death of the Harbour Drive ficus trees.
The council's general manager, Stephen Sawtell, said the level of transparency and investigation being conducted by the council in the matter was 'unprecedented'.
"We are doing a full audit on all chemical use, staff interviews into the matter are continuing as are sampling and costing," Mr Sawtell said.
"It is still early days but we will continue to keep the community informed."
Earlier this week the council released preliminary findings of samples taken to detect the presence of herbicides.
In those tests, residues of picloram and triclopyr, chemicals common to herbicides, were discovered in soil and leaf samples.
There were 34 trees in the section of Harbour Drive from the Pacific Highway to Gordon Street. Two have already been removed.
"Effective from Wednesday, we have made considerable changes to the way we apply chemicals and are doing a critical review of all our chemical practices," Mr Sawtell said.
The council has come under fire since Wednesday's announcement from many local residents, including the Corindi Beach Residents' Group.
Group representative Sally Wilson said the council had previously been wrapped over the knuckles by the Department of Environment and Conservation (former EPA) for spraying herbicides into open drains.
"The department recommended that the council implement alternative approaches to pesticides where possible," Ms Wilson said.
"Why would they be spraying toxic chemicals in the middle of Harbour Drive which is a busy pedestrian thoroughfare?"