2010 + 2016: Wagga Wagga Drinking Water (New South Wales). PFOA, PFAS

Concentrations of PFOS, PFOA and other perfluorinated alkyl acids in Australian drinking water

Jack Thompson a,⇑, Geoff Eaglesham b, Jochen Mueller a The University of Queensland, National Research Center for Environmental Toxicology (Entox) 39 Kessels Rd., Coopers Plains, QLD. 4108, Australia b Queensland Health and Forensic Scientific Services (QHFSS), Organics Section 39 Kessels Rd., Coopers Plains, QLD. 4108, Australia

2010: Wagga Wagga: New South Wales

PFOA: 0.54ng/L

NSW EPA confirms contamination at Wagga Wagga not significant enough to cause drinking water concern

10 November 2016: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-10/nsw-epa-confirms-pfos-contamination-not-significant-drinking/8012740

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed Wagga’s drinking water is safe, despite reports of contamination from the nearby RAAF base.

An investigation into the use of fire-fighting foams known as PFAS found traces of the chemicals around 12 RAAF bases, including in groundwater around the Forest Hill base, in Southern NSW.

The nearby city of Wagga Wagga draws some of its drinking water from ground water sources.

NSW EPA Hazardous Incidents executive director Sarah Gardner said the results were below health drinking and recreational water guidelines.

“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,” Ms Gardner said.

She said the situation did not prompt precautions for drinking water, as had already happened near other bases.

“Some of these chemicals as we know in Williamtown have gone off the defence bases and have gone into the community,” Ms Gardner said.

“When investigations are completed we will have a better idea of what the community needs to do to protect itself, it may be nothing, but in Williamtown for example we do have precautions around the consumption of ground water.”

Wagga RSL sub-branch president Kevin Kerr also leads the Forest Hill Progress Association.

He said locals wanted more information, and was hopeful a public meeting would be held soon.

“I do speak to the RAAF senior officers and they are quite concerned themselves,” Mr Kerr said.

“But they said once the results came out and there was a threat to the residents of Forest Hill they’d call a meeting and speak to the residents,” he said.

Water supply board member calls for development halt

A board member governing the local water supplier said development adjacent to the RAAF base should be halted while the investigation was conducted.

Riverina Water County Councillor Paul Funnell said further investigation was needed, because it was not clear whether the concentration would increase.

Cr Funnell, who is also a Wagga City councillor, said reassurances the results were within the safe drinking limits were not enough to reassure him.

“I don’t like to stop development but isn’t it better to put something on hold until you know,” Cr Funnell said.

“I know it’s a drastic measure but how do you measure the value of a person’s health.”

“Some might say that’s erring on the side of caution, but I would certainly do that. It’s not about being negative [for] development,” he said.

“Once your water table gets contaminated, you can’t clean it up.”

Former RWCC Councillor and Greens spokesman Kevin Poynter said Defence needed to be more proactive.

“The Forest Hill community and the community around the Air Force Base has been very patient about this. The Defence Force needs to be good neighbours and talk to people and tell them what’s going on and be very clear about the timetable,” Mr Poynter said.

“Further testing is really important,” Ms Gardner said.

“These preliminary tests have covered some of the bases but we have an expectation that defence will now embark on very detailed investigations, including various pathways for human exposure,” she said.