2018/20 – Low Level Toxins at Port of MacKay (Queensland) – PFAS

Low level toxins at Port of Mackay


Feb 23 2018

OXIC chemicals detected in water around Mackay Harbour pose a “low risk”, according to the port authority.

Testing, done in November but not publicly reported until this week, revealed low concentrations of the chemical, known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), in the Port of Mackay’s ground and surface waters.

Acting CEO of North Queensland Bulk Ports Brendan Webb said initial results indicated the levels were “low”, and decreasing as groundwater moved away from the Port, and were below the drinking and recreational values close to the boundary of the port.

He added: “Importantly, no groundwater at the Port is used for human consumption or recreational purposes.”

No restrictions have been placed on the consumption of seafood caught in the area. But it isn’t clear what levels the chemicals were occurring at, nor where they might have come from.

Mr Webb said it was “likely the results are related to the historical use of firefighting foam containing these substances”, rather than there being any evidence to suggest it had been caused by a recent incident.

In July 2016, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection introduced a policy to ban the use of the firefighting foams containing these chemicals, and also phase out its use.

It said the chemicals were known to present a threat to ‘human health and environmental values’.

The policy focus was specifically on industrial sites that hold large stocks of the firefighting foam for emergency situations, citing industrial ports and bulk fuel storage facilities.

A voluntary survey in 2017 issued to determine the status of PFAS firefighting foam stocks in Queensland found six reported sites in Mackay with existing firefighting foam stocks.

Government and independent experts plan further testing.

PFAS site investigations


The following ports have notified the Queensland Government that elevated PFAS levels have been detected on site, requiring further monitoring or investigation. For more information, visit the individual port website links below (and search ‘PFAS’ from the home page):