Everything that we do on the land affects our waterways so chemicals that we use eventually find their way into the ocean. Even very low levels of herbicides can adversely effect the health of marine and aquatic plants and animals. They also pose a health threat to humans.

Glyphosphate formulations (Round-Up is the best known) have been shown to disrupt hormones and have been linked with cancer in animal trials. A study in Germany showed that 75% of people had glyphosphate in their bodies at five times the legal level of contamination in water, and a third showed levels 10-40 times higher. Children living on farms were most affected.

Many countries around the world have implemented restrictions or bans on the use of glyphosphate herbicides including the Netherlands, Malta, Sri Lanka and Argentina. The European Union has also voted to completely ban glyphosphate formulations by 2022.

Regional Councils who are partners of the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership are working with Blue Hand Steam to introduce steam-weeding technology as a way to manage weeds along beaches and roadsides rather than herbicides.

This technology involves applying steam from a “steam-wand” that has been super-heated under pressure in a diesel-fired boiler. Feedback about this change has been positive. According to the Cassowary Coast Council’s Mark Allpress, “When we are weeding near the beach in playgrounds we get people coming up to us concerned that we are using chemicals near them; when we tell them it is steam they are really happy!”