Firefighting activities the most likely cause of Bundaberg PFAS contamination, investigation finds
Historical firefighting activities are the most likely cause of chemical contamination to a Bundaberg suburb’s water supply, the Queensland Government has determined.
An investigation began in April after the water supply to Svensson Heights was found to have unsafe levels of the potentially toxic PFAS chemicals.
The State Government said the investigation into the source of the contamination was now complete and “the most likely source of the contamination is from historical firefighting foam training activities at the Bundaberg Regional Airport”.
Samples were taken from surface water, soil and sediment.
The Bundaberg Regional Council said the airport did not come under council control until it was handed over by the Commonwealth in 1985.
“A permanent fire crew was based at the airport for many years while it was under the control of the Commonwealth Government,” Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said.
“Since 1985, fire drills have been held at the airport approximately every two years.”
The drills were undertaken by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.
“The Department at this time has not been able to advise council when PFAS actually entered the soil,” Cr Dempsey said.
“The good news is, from a community perspective, testing confirms there is no longer any PFAS in town water above the recommended guidelines.”
The Government said the Environment Department would “continue working with the Bundaberg Regional Council and Queensland Health to ensure appropriate monitoring and management”.
Queensland Health says no adverse health impacts
PFAS chemicals were components in firefighting foam — and household and industrial products — but have not been used in Queensland since 2003.
Both PFOS and PFOA were previously used extensively in firefighting foams by both civilian and Defence Force firefighters around Australia.
The effects of PFAS chemicals on human health and the environment are being investigated by Australian and international authorities.
Free blood tests were offered to concerned residents of Svensson Heights.
In May, Queensland Health said it reviewed blood test results of more than 60 residents and found none had significantly elevated levels of PFAS.
“Most of the blood test results reviewed were from people who have lived in the Svensson Heights area for five years or more and still live there,” said Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young.
“This should provide further reassurance to long-term residents.”
Cr Dempsey said seafood sample tests also showed no cause for concern.
“It now appears the environmental and health risks have been remedied and contained,” he said