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Toxic test results at Southside

Judy Ballard believes soil toxins are responsible for the ill health of animals on her Glastonbury Rd property.
Judy Ballard believes soil toxins are responsible for the ill health of animals on her Glastonbury Rd property. Renee Pilcher

DEAD birds and a dog that lost all its fur within days of jumping in her backyard waterhole were enough to convince Judy Ballard that something was wrong.

Mrs Ballard, whose home is just downhill (and downstream) from the former Southside tip (now a transfer station), is contaminated, she says.

But the council and the State Government's former environmental protection agency, says there's nothing wrong.

Their tests show some elevated levels of toxic heavy metals and other poisons, but not at levels that would be an unacceptable threat.

"They said there was nothing wrong," Mrs Ballard told The Gympie Times.

"So I had my own tests done and they showed a different result."

Mrs Ballard says of the EPA and Gympie Regional Council: "They took samples in wet weather, when outflow from the former dump would be greatest".

But Mrs Ballard says this is also when the deposits in her soil would be at their most dilute.

"I had my samples taken in the dry," she said.

The figures are subject to interpretation, but Mrs Ballard has had trouble getting further advice on that.

But a quick internet check shows her levels of chromium, rated at 36, were high enough to cause ill effects in humans living there.

Some petroleum-based hydrocarbons are also showing at high readings in her soil, as are organophosphate pesticides.

Mrs Ballard's backyard chromium levels appear to exceed recommended levels for residential use of the land, let alone for growing vegetables or grazing animals.

She says her troubles come from leachate from the former dump, which is next door and uphill from her acreage on Glastonbury Rd.

Experts in the field say agricultural soils normally contain some background levels of heavy metals, but these levels can be increased from industrial activities or by-products, including material leaching from a dump.

"The actual toxicity of a heavy metal will be affected by soil texture, organic matter and pH," according to one university information site.

The site warns: "It is not clear exactly what levels of heavy metals in soil are safe, but correct interpretation of readings is needed".

Topics:  toxic

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