2017-2020: Seaspray (Victoria). Reticulation Site and Raw Water Inlet

Gippsland Water test for 28 PFAS related compounds each month (from 2017)

Seaspray Reticulation site 

12/11/19: PERFLUOROBUTANOIC ACID (PFBA) 0.04ug/L. Sum of PFAS 0.04ug/L, Sum of PFAS (WA DER List) 0.04ug/L

15/4/20: PERFLUOROBUTANOIC ACID (PFBA) 0.08ug/L. PERFLUOROPENTANOIC ACID (PFPeA) 0.004ug/L.  Sum of PFAS 0.084ug/L, Sum of PFAS (WA DER List) 0.084ug/L

12/8/20: PERFLUOROPENTANOIC ACID (PFPeA) 0.004ug/L.  Sum of PFAS 0.004ug/L, Sum of PFAS (WA DER List) 0.004ug/L

Seaspray Raw water inlet to WTP


12/9/17: PERFLUOROOCTANE SULFONIC ACID (PFOS) 0.003ug/L. Sum of PFAS: 0.003, SUM of PFAS and PFHxS 0.003

8/10/19: PERFLUOROPENTANOIC ACID (PFPeA) 0.003ug/L. Sum of PFAS 0.003ug/L, Sum of PFAS (WA DER LIST): 0.003ug/L

14/1/20: 6:2 FLUOROTELOMER SULFONIC ACID 0.009ug/L, PERFLUOROPENTANOIC ACID (PFPeA) 0.003ug/L Sum of PFAS 0.012ug/L, Sum of PFAS (WA DER LIST): 0.012ug/L

Call for PFAS probe across Wellington Shire

Dec 15 2020. https://www.gippslandtimes.com.au/story/7053953/call-for-pfas-probe/

A LEADING environmental organisation is calling for an urgent investigation into water contamination in Wellington Shire, after elevated PFAS chemicals were identified in reticulation, waste water and raw water at Seaspray and at low levels in Briagolong and Sale.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by Friends of the Earth has revealed water testing by Gippsland Water at Seaspray has recorded a number of incidents regarding PFAS contamination since early March 2017.

FoE land use researcher Anthony Amis, who tracks PFAS contamination around the world, said the elevated readings in Seaspray were particularly concerning because testing only began three years ago, but there was no data on how long people in the community had been exposed.

The first test results from Seaspray’s Final Lagoon in March 2017 revealed six different PFAS chemicals had been detected at a combined level of 0.57ppb (parts per billion).

Subsequently, Gippsland Water undertook once-a-month testing for 28 different PFAS chemicals at the inlet to the Seaspray Water Treatment Plant. Detections were recorded in May 2017, then September 2017, October 2019 and January 2020.

According to Mr Amis, the results are “disturbing”, because they mean the PFAS detected there was most likely excreted from people living or visiting Seaspray, and unlikely to have come from an industrial source unless it had leached into the raw water.

Testing of Seaspray’s reticulated water then began in November 2017, with PFAS detections in the reticulation detected in November 2019, April 2020 and August 2020.

The results from Briagolong and Sale showed the chemicals were also present, but at lower levels.

However, none of the findings have been made public until now.

In response, Gippsland Water insisted its drinking water was safe.

A spokesperson said regular testing and monitoring of drinking water was undertaken for microbiological, chemical and physical substances including PFAS.

“Our sampling program for the Seaspray drinking water supply has shown results are well below the health-based guideline values in the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Australian Drinking Water Guidelines,” he said.

“We’re continuing to monitor and test our water supplies routinely to ensure our water is safe to drink and these results will be made publicly available on our website.”

Mr Amis said it was difficult to determine how dangerous the pollution was to human health, because out of the thousands of PFAS chemicals in the environment, there were only national health guidelines for three.

But he said elevated levels of any PFAS chemical was concerning and needed to be investigated.

The levels recorded of the chemicals PFBA and PFPeA in April 2020 in the Seaspray reticulated supply totalled 0.084ug/L.

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for combined PFOS and PFHxS are set at 0.07ug/L, and 0.56ug/L for PFOA.

Mr Amis said the results showed that the positive levels of PFAS in reticulated water supplied to Seaspray appeared to be fluctuating, with April’s reading the highest at 0.084ppb.

Friends of the Earth wants the source of the PFAS to be thoroughly investigated by the EPA and Gippsland Water.

Mr Amis said there was a range of possible sources for the chemical contaminants, including Exxonmobil’s Longford gas plant 14 kilometres away, where PFAS chemicals have been detected in earlier testing, gas wells drilled near the off-take to Seaspray water supply about six years ago, and PFAS used in gas wells as fire suppressant, hydraulic fluid or surfactant.

The closest well was located 500 metres upstream of the Merrimans Creek offtake, which Mr Amis fears could also mean that groundwater could be polluted.

“If I was a farmer using bore water or recycled water from around Seaspray I’d be demanding testing of the water, food and soil, because it bioaccumulates and can also be absorbed by plants,” he said.

Gippsland-based Victorian representative of the national Coalition Against PFAS, Tracey Anton, said authorities had a duty of care to inform residents if the water was affected by PFAS chemicals.

“Gippsland Water has not been transparent about letting residents know their water contains significant amounts of PFAS, and whether under or over guidelines this is a concern because of the way it becomes concentrated in the body,” she said.

A spokesperson for the EPA said it was not aware of the issue.

PFAS (Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a group of man-made chemicals used in a variety of industries around the globe.

They are widespread in the environment and commonly found in non-stick cookware, water resistant clothing, cleaning products and some personal care products.

These chemicals do not easily break down in the environment or the body and can accumulate over time.

There is evidence exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects.

PFAS discovery raises health concerns

Dec 22 2020: https://www.gippslandtimes.com.au/story/7064039/pfas-discovery-raises-health-concerns/

LAST week’s revelations of elevated readings of PFAS in drinking water and waste water treatment plants in the Seaspray area have raised new concerns about the source of the chemicals in the local environment and their potential health effects.

Gippsland environmental advocate Tracey Anton said she had spent years investigating PFAS contamination in the region, and had anecdotal evidence of widespread health problems for people living in areas where it had been detected.

Ms Anton is calling for more investigation into the source of the Seaspray contamination, and for subsidised blood testing of residents.

“There needs to be blood tests offered for everyone living in the areas, there are a lot of people living where PFAS has previously been identified who have had health issues,” she said.

“It’s not good enough for Gippsland Water to say the water is safe, and just brushing over it with ‘Oh, it’s safe'”.

Last year, WorkSafe Victoria provided $40,000 to the Electrical Trades Union to test up to 100 people who worked at Esso’s Longford gas plants and its Bass Strait gas platforms, after PFAS was detected in bores, dams and drainage lines near the site and a former worker, Rob Lyndon, had elevated levels of PFOS – a type of PFAS – in his blood that were well above health guidelines.

While the ETU has not yet released the results from the later mass testing, Ms Anton said she was aware several of those readings were also above health guidelines. However, she said she did not believe the Seaspray water contamination was linked to the contamination at the Esso site, and had come from a different, unidentified source, possibly related to agriculture.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth echoed concerns PFAS was potentially circulating in the community through recycled water and products used in agriculture.

The group made a submission to the November 2020 review of the EPA’s Recycled Water Guidance, calling for human health-based benchmarks for PFAS in biosolids used on agricultural fields.

Among other things, it also recommends monitoring PFAS in treated sewage sludge prior to any agricultural application and making the data publicly available.

In September 2020, the CSIRO released a paper, Advanced PFAS precursor digestion methods for biosolids, which revealed researchers had demonstrated levels of PFAS in biosolids were “significantly higher” than historically understood, and their land application “could result in sensitive environments being exposed to PFAS at levels higher than previously anticipated”.

FoE researcher Anthony Amis said the group was pushing for adequate testing of recycled water, particularly water used on farms.

“Recycled water is often perceived as being a great environmental outcome, but are consumers of recycled water and biosolids being told the full story in regards to what is actually in that water,” he said.

The FoE submission says water authorities should not be able to provide recycled water or biosolids if the products are known to be contaminated with PFAS or other contaminants, including microplastics.

“There needs to be an urgent upgrade to Australian Guideline for Recycling and Guideline levels for PFAS in recycled water and biosolids,” he said.

Gippsland Water, which manufactures a type of fertiliser using treated biosolids, said it could assure the community the product was “safe for its intended use”.

“All of the biosolids removed from our wastewater treatment plants are treated, blended with other organic products and turned into high quality compost at our organics recycling facility,” a spokesman said.

“The compost we manufacture undergoes rigorous testing and is safe for its intended use, meeting AS4454 Australian standards and reflective of industry best practice.”

The Gippsland Water spokesperson also said none of the biosolids removed from its wastewater treatment plants were applied directly to land.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been in use since the 1940s, and are (or have been) found in many consumer products like cookware, food packaging, and stain repellants.

International studies have found links between PFAS chemicals and breast and liver cancers, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated there is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans.