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Environment Protection Authority

PFC investigations are underway at Gold Coast Airport

Media release: 7 June 2016

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has this week requested further perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) investigations be conducted at Gold Coast Airport, after Airservices Australia and Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd sampling found PFCs in both soil and water.

NSW EPA Manager Hazardous Incidents, Andrew Mitchell, said the discovery of PFCs at the site was likely due to past use of PFC-containing firefighting foams at the airport and the adjoining firefighting training area, and emphasised the importance of acting in a timely manner to resolve this difficult legacy issue.

“The NSW EPA has requested Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd conduct a comprehensive investigation into PFC contamination at the airport and on surrounding lands and waterways,” Mr Mitchell said.

“As a priority action, Gold Coast Airport must identify potential human exposure pathways such as commercial and recreational use of Cobaki Creek and groundwater use.

“The situation at Gold Coast airport is relatively unique, because of the various stakeholders involved including Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd, and Airservices Australia, which is a Commonwealth agency. In addition, the airport is located on the NSW and Queensland border, which means PFC contamination might be present in both states. We will work closely with these stakeholders to ensure an appropriate, scientific and risk-based resolution is adopted throughout the investigation.” 

Air Services Australia expects the investigation to take some months. Air Services Australia told the EPA it was committed to keeping the community informed and up-to-date on key developments.

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.

PFCs are already commonly found in the environment at low levels due to their wide-spread use in consumer and speciality products over many decades.

Earlier this year the NSW EPA announced a state-wide investigation program, as part of a precautionary approach to better understand the extent of PFC use and contamination around NSW.

For information about the NSW EPA’s state-wide PFC investigation program, visit www.epa.nsw.gov.au/MediaInformation/pfcinvestigation.htm or call the Environment Line on 131 555.  

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 09 June 2016