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Environment Protection Authority

New PFAS sampling results released for Commonwealth sites in NSW

Media release: 8 November 2016

The NSW Government has reviewed surface water and groundwater results from the Commonwealth Department of Defence’s preliminary sampling program for PFAS* at Wagga Wagga RAAF Base, Richmond RAAF Base and Holsworthy Barracks, and determined that the results are below enHealth drinking and recreational water guidelines.

NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Executive Director of Hazardous Incidents and Environmental Health Sarah Gardner said the EPA is pleased to see the preliminary results for the three sites are below the guidelines, but is now urging Defence to proceed to detailed investigations to assess potential risks to human health and the environment.

“The detection of PFAS in the surrounding environment is not unexpected as these Defence sites have all used PFAS-containing fire-fighting foams in the past. We also know that PFAS have been used in many domestic and industrial products and background levels may be present from these other sources,” Mrs Gardner said.

“What we now need to determine is the extent of contamination originating from the Defence sites, and if potential exposure pathways exist.

“We expect that Defence will now undertake sampling of surface water, groundwater, sediments and soils around each site. Identifying and understanding the pathways through which people can be exposed to these chemicals, such as drinking water and produce, is also very important.

“Although the NSW Government does not regulate Defence sites, we have outlined our expectations that Defence will carry out these investigations in a timely manner. We will continue to work close with all relevant stakeholders to ensure this work proceeds in line with the EPA’s requirements.”

The NSW Government is committed to working closely with all relevant government agencies, to monitor the progress of the investigation, and to keep the community informed. Agencies include the Department of Defence, NSW Health, NSW Department of Primary Industries, and NSW Food Authority.

For more information about PFAS, visit www.epa.nsw.gov.au/MediaInformation/pfasinvestigation.htm or call the Environment Line on 131 555.  

-ENDS-

* Per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS). As they have heat, water and stain repelling properties, PFAS 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.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs

Page last updated: 08 November 2016