Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA investigations into PFCs underway in Armidale and Tamworth

Media release: 3 May 2016

Following the announcement on 19 February 2016 of a state-wide investigation program into perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) today confirmed testing for PFC contamination at the Armidale Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and Tamworth Regional Airport firefighting training sites.

Sampling undertaken at both of these sites earlier in the year showed the presence of PFCs in both soil and water.

NSW EPA Manager Hazardous Incidents, Andrew Mitchell, said the discovery of PFCs was not unexpected due to use of PFC containing firefighting foams at the sites in the past.

“The preliminary samples indicate that PFCs are present and that further investigation is warranted. This initial testing by the EPA is a precautionary approach to help us better understand the extent of PFC use and their possible presence in the local environment,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The EPA is now working with FRNSW, Armidale Dumaresq Council, Tamworth Regional Council and NSW Crown Lands to discuss the need for next steps and keeping residents and the local community informed of the investigation’s progress.”

PFCs are a group of chemicals that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). As these have water, grease and oil repelling properties, PFCs have been widely used in a range of industrial and consumer products both in Australia and internationally, including in fire retardants, water proofing, food preparation, food packaging, furnishings, clothing and recreational equipment.

Due to their wide-spread use over many decades, PFCs are commonly found in the environment at low levels and their presence does not necessarily indicate a risk to human health.

“PFCs are emerging contaminants and the environmental and health impacts are not yet determined. The EPA investigations are an important step towards identifying and managing PFCs in the environment.”  

For more information about the state-wide investigation program and/or PFCs, visit www.epa.nsw.gov.au/MediaInformation/pfcinvestigation.htm or call the Environment Line on 131 555.  

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 03 May 2016