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Environment Protection Authority

Williamtown Expert Panel recommends an extension to the fishing closures in Fullerton Cove and upper Tilligerry Creek

Media release: 27 October 2015

The NSW Government has accepted the advice of the Williamtown Contamination Expert Panel that the local fishing closure should be extended by eight months while a Human Health Risk Assessment is completed.

On Monday 26 October the Williamtown Expert Panel, led by Prof. Mary O’Kane NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, met to discuss the expected timeline for the delivery by the Department of Defence of a comprehensive Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA).

As a result of the data presented to the Expert Panel, a decision was made by the NSW Government to extend the current fishing closures in Williamtown for a further eight months.

“The NSW EPA accepts the recommendation of the Expert Panel that the precautionary measures be extended by eight months in order to allow Defence to complete a comprehensive human health risk assessment,” said NSW EPA CEO Mr Barry Buffier.

“The Expert Panel has reviewed the sampling strategy that Defence is proposing and has provided additional advice on the range of investigations that are required, which the EPA will convey to Defence.

“The extended period is necessary to ensure the Human Health Risk Assessment adequately takes into account all possible individual and cumulative pathways for human exposure to PFOS and PFOA.

“There are few laboratories with the advanced technology required to process the large volume of samples needed to inform the risk assessment and this is the primary reason for the eight month duration,” he said.

The eight month extension includes recreational and commercial fishing bans, along with the current precautionary measures for residents, put in place by the NSW Government and supported by the Expert Panel, which includes:

  • not drinking or preparing food using private water bores, or water from dams, ponds, creeks or drains (town water is safe)
  • not eating eggs from backyard chickens or milk from cows and goats that have been drinking bore water or surface water in the area; and 
  • not eating fish, prawns or wild oysters caught in the nearby area.

“The eight month fishing ban extension is devastating news for commercial fishers, many of whom have had no income these past eight weeks and comes at a time when the Fullerton Cove prawn trawl season was just days away from commencing on 1 November 2015. Through the EPA, we will continue working with fishers to pursue short term support for loss of income and longer term compensation claims with Defence,” said DPI Deputy Director General Fisheries, Dr Geoff Allan.

“The NSW Government is strongly committed to the “polluter pays” principle and Defence is the polluter in this case. As such, the EPA expects Defence to provide appropriate and timely financial assistance to members of the community and businesses who are adversely impacted due to pollution from the RAAF base. We are vigorously pursuing this,” added NSW EPA CEO Mr Barry Buffier.

The NSW Government will continue working with the Williamtown Community Reference Group to ensure the local community is informed and able to provide input to the HHRA,” he said.

For further information please contact the Environment Line on 131 555 or visit www.epa.nsw.gov.au and click the link under Community News for the latest FAQs. An online community feedback form is also available via the NSW EPA website, should community members have any questions or concerns.

Contact: Public Affairs

Page last updated: 27 October 2015