18/8/21: Skeleton Creek (Vic) Fish and Eel Warning

Skeleton Creek fish and eel warning

18/8/21 (Maribyrnong/Hobsons Bay Star Weekly)

The Department of Defence will install signs warning people not to eat fish or eels caught in the Skeleton Creek lower catchment due to contamination.

As reported by Star Weekly in November, Defence confirmed off-site contamination from chemicals found in firefighting foams used on the RAAF Base Williams at Laverton.

This included contamination in groundwater, world-listed Cheetham Wetlands and waterways discharging into Port Phillip Bay.

Defence started using foams containing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the 1970s for fighting high-intensity liquid fuel fires.

In 2003, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme recommended its use be restricted and, in 2004, Defence started phasing out its use.

The RAAF Williams (Laverton) Environmental Investigation Project Team has written to residents advising that data from a risk assessment, including results of fish sampling, had been reviewed by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

“Based on the fish sampling results, EPA Victoria has released consumption advice for fish caught in Skeleton Creek,” the letter states.

“The consumption advice states ‘do not eat fish or eels caught from Skeleton Creek to the south of the Princes Freeway (M1) in Point Cook, Seabrook and Altona Meadows to the bridge to Altona Meadows’.”

Friends of Skeleton Creek secretary Denice Perryman said there were a number of sites where she had seen people fishing in PFAS-contaminated water.

“It’s dreadful that it’s happened but it’s happened at places all over Australia,” she said.

“I feel that it’s been investigated well but, of course, I’m devastated to think that that’s flowing into the creek and affecting the animals and the plants that are living in the creek.”

Defence is now working with state government agencies to finalise its Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment and PFAS Management Area Plan reports.