2018 March – Heart Morass and Dowd Morass Warnings (Victoria) – PFAS

EPA reiterates PFAS advice for Heart Morass


15 Mar 2018

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is reminding duck hunters in the Gippsland area about its advice not to consume PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) affected eel, carp and duck taken from the Heart Morass area. This includes any part of the animals, including duck breast.

EPA is continuing to work with responsible land owners including Department of Defence, (DoD) to ensure all PFAS present in Victoria at elevated levels are identified and managed.

PFAS are a group of man-made substances, many of which are in widespread and common use including in historic firefighting foams and in home products like non-stick pans and carpet treatments.

While there is still no consistent evidence that PFAS cause any specific illness in humans, they can persist in humans for many years.  EPA is taking a cautionary approach to minimise risk and recommends against consumption of animal products or water where PFAS levels are considered high.

The advice will also be extended to include the adjacent Dowd Morass wetlands following expert ecological advice that birds routinely travel between the two sites and should therefore be considered as a single location.

This is a complex issue and EPA is leading an interagency group to develop a comprehensive statewide survey of biota including nomadic and resident ducks. This testing will include other chemicals and metals of general concern to the community.

The group has already co-ordinated the collection of ducks from three locations in Victoria to better understand the extent and distribution of PFAS contamination in ducks in the state.

Ducks, which are known to fly long distances, were collected from Heart Morass wetlands in Gippsland (ducks have previously been identified at this site with high PFAS concentrations by the Department of Defence), Lake Bolac (south of Ararat) and Hirds Swamp (north west of Echuca).

Animal ethics approval was obtained for this screening study and Arthur Rylah Institute organised the collection. The results of the testing show PFAS at low risk levels at both Lake Bolac and Hirds Swamp in the 19 ducks collected.  No consumption advice is needed to be issued for these locations.

“The levels of PFAS in ducks from Heart Morass observed in the testing are elevated when compared with the Lake Bolac and Hirds Swamp results, but are much lower than the results of tests performed by DoD in 2017,” said EPA Chief Environmental Scientist Dr Andrea Hinwood.

Dr Hinwood reiterated advice that, while Heart Morass results did not match the DoD 2017 results the latest of which was released in December last year, there was still reason for caution concerning consumption of eels, carp and duck from the Heart Morass area and should not be consumed.

DoD has been cooperating with EPA to make results of its testing available and EPA has audited these results to assure accuracy.

PFAS in Victorian waterfowl

Investigation of the presence of PFAS in 19 wetlands in Victoria

EPA Victoria Publication 1734 March 2019

PFOS + PFHxS: Heart Morass Sediment: <0.0004-1.93mg/kg (Median 0.0574mg/kg)

PFOA: Heart Morass Sediment: <0.0002-0.0291mg/kg (Median 0.0007mg/kg)

PFOS: Heart Morass Sediment: <0.0002-1.66mg/kg (Median 0.0504mg/kg)

PFHxS: Heart Morass Waters: <0.002-0.31ug/L (Median 0.16ug/L)

PFOA: Heart Morass Waters: <0.002-0.009ug/L (Median 0.004ug/L)

PFOS: Heart Morass Waters: <0.004-0.494ug/L (Median 0.124ug/L)

PFOS + PFHxS: Heart Morass Waters: <0.004-0.74ug/L (Median 0.29ug/L)

PFAS in Water Fowl: Yes

Table 6 (below) – Summary of exceedances of trigger points for investigation in waterfowl, the number of specimens per species for composite samples and the range of PFOS + PFHxS concentrations in breast and liver.

Waterfowl Tested: 6 Pacific Black Duck. 6 Total Specimens. PFOS + PFHxS: Breast 11.4ug/kg, Liver 131ug/kg

above trigger points for investigation in bold