Toxic Town

It's the chemical contamination that's strangling a community. Toxic compounds used in fire-fighting foam leaking out into water ways, closing fishing grounds & polluting animals with 650 properties now not worth a cent.

Defence Department statement:

Specialised aqueous film-forming foams have been used for nearly 50 years in every major military base and civilian aerodromes around Australia to safeguard health and safety and human life. Specialised aqueous film-forming foams are used for critical national defence and other purposes to extinguish liquid fuel fires.

Chemicals in the older fire fighting foams--in particular, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) -- were also used in a range of industrial, commercial and domestic products including:

• water proofing on clothes, carpet and paint

• wall treatments and

• in the manufacture of cooking surfaces of some non-stick cookware and other coated cooking appliances.

The possible impact on human health by PFOS/PFOA is unknown. The National Health and Medical Research Council does not specify a level for these chemicals in the national Australian drinking water quality guidelines. There are no globally accepted peer review studies showing that exposure to PFOS and PFOA affects human health.

The following timeline summarises Defence's response to the use of PFOS and PFOA:

• In 2003 Defence became aware that this was an emerging contaminant. In 2003 we released a specification for the supply and testing of foam concentrates.

• In 2004 we restricted the use of the old fire fighting foam at Williamtown to critical uses only-not training.

• Between 2006 and 2011 Defence moved to a product called Ansulite which is more environmentally friendly. Defence now uses Ansulite for fire fighting training and for critical incidents.

• In 2011 Defence added PFOS and PFOA to the routine environmental monitoring on all our bases.

• In 2012 Defence detected some contamination on-base and at the boundary and notified Hunter Water Corporation and the NSW Environment Protection Agency.

• Defence conducted a review in 2013, which recommended more detailed investigations. These were conducted in 2014 and 2015 and the report received in the middle of this year.

Reports can be found at the following Link:

To date, PFOS and PFOA have been detected outside RAAF Base Williamtown and the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland. At this stage, Defence has commenced planning to determine what future testing may be required. The process may take some time, and Defence is currently concentrating on understanding the full extent of the Williamtown contamination in partnership with NSW government agencies, local councils and federal agencies.

As a precaution, when Defence uses fire fighting foam to test equipment, to conduct limited training or in case of emergency, it is captured and disposed of in accordance with current regulations.