Crops watered with waste could affect 'hundreds of people'

July 6, 2013 at 1:00 PM

SYDNEY, July 6 (UPI) -- Australian officials say farmers who use wastewater to irrigate fruit and vegetable crops are showing a "negligent disregard" for public health.

A parliamentary inquiry into how wastewater is handled on farms in New South Wales found a large number of farms had deficient sewage systems, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Saturday.

Camden Council, in Sydney's southwest, told the inquiry there was "widespread use of effluent hoses conveying wastewater to crops."

The inquiry said using wastewater to irrigate produce on farms was often deliberate and "a negligent disregard" or a lack of awareness for public safety.

"Many hundreds of people" could be affected ''if crops or groundwater were contaminated," the inquiry found.

Currently, those found violating wastewater laws receive a fine of $330, which the inquiry ruled is inadequate.

"You are finding in a lot of market gardens ... best practice isn't being used [but] it certainly is not the majority," said Camden Parliament member Chris Patterson, who acted as the chairman of the inquiry.

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