Gippsland Lakes (Victoria)
The PFAS contamination caused by DoD has spread into at least two protected wetlands areas which are internationally protected under the RAMSAR Convention – the Hunter Estuary Wetlands in NSW (including Fullerton Cove and Kooragang, as well as the Tilligerry State Conservation Area and the Hunter Wetlands National Park); and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, where preliminary testing by DoD’s consultants has revealed alarming levels of PFAS contamination in duck, eels and fish.32 Since PFAS biomagnify up the food chain, the real extent of the damage caused in these areas seems likely to be far greater than has been revealed by preliminary testing. There is no data on just how many species have been poisoned.
Causing a pollution incident in a RAMSAR wetland is a criminal offence under the Federal Government’s flagship legislation to protect the Australian environment, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (section 17). A reporting obligation is also triggered to the RAMSAR secretariat “if the ecological character of a site has changed, is changing, or is likely to change as the result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference”. So far as CAP is aware, no criminal prosecution has been brought and no notification to RAMSAR has been made.