2017 April – Brisbane River (Queensland) – PFAS

Qantas to ban toxic foam use Australia-wide after Brisbane airport spill

Qantas will stop using potentially toxic firefighting foam nationally after a spill in the Brisbane River.

In April, 22,000 litres of a firefighting foam with the chemical PFAS leaked from a Qantas hangar at Brisbane Airport.

Some made its way into the river causing up to 30 fish to die and prompting warnings not to eat fish or shellfish caught in the area.

Qantas domestic chief executive Andrew David publicly apologised for the spill at the time.

A Qantas spokesman said today the airline would phase out the foam.

“Critically, we will be installing aviation accredited PFAS-free foam in all Qantas Group sites over the next 12 months, the first major Australian airline to do so,” he said.

Federal coordination needed, expert says

But Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles wants more broader adoption.

“It’s great that Qantas has agreed to swap to firefighting foams that don’t contain PFAS but they’re just one airline,” he said.

“The Federal Government needs to take the ban across the board.”

Brisbane environmental medical expert Dr Andrew Jeremijenko said the toxic firefighting foam had now been banned by the Queensland Government, firefighters and Qantas, but the Federal Government was dragging its heels.

He called on the Commonwealth to follow suit for all airports and airlines.

“The Federal Government is still arguing there are no health effects from the foam and that’s clearly not the case,” he said.

Qantas said it had also provided compensation to commercial fishing operators affected by the temporary fishing ban.

It said monitoring had found the toxic chemical was still present in the waterways around the airport, from a variety of sources unrelated to the spill earlier this year.