2018 November – Bakers Lagoon (New South Wales) – PFAS

Chemical risk at Richmond sparks warning on meat ,eggs and fish

Sydney Morning Herald By Carrie Fellner 7 November 2018

People living on toxic land surrounding the Richmond RAAF Base have been warned the consumption of large amounts of locally-grown meat, eggs and fish could pose an unacceptable risk to their health.

But levels of the potentially carcinogenic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl [PFAS] chemicals in livestock reared in the area and sold to the general public remains an area of “uncertainty”, according to risk assessments released by Defence on Wednesday. The reports, by consultancy AECOM, examined the risks to humans and wildlife from the base’s use of firefighting foams containing PFAS over several decades.

The report found residents who eat large amounts of locally-grown food should strive to reduce their intake of meat, fish and eggs, where animals have had contact with contaminated water.

Separately, an ecological risk assessment found the pollutants posed a “potentially unacceptable” risk to plants and animals in the area.

Testing has detected PFAS in eggs on the property of East Richmond resident Joanna Pickford. She offered a basket containing dozens of the toxic eggs to Defence officials before a community meeting on Wednesday evening.

“They quickly emptied it so nobody could see them,” she laughed.

But Ms Pickford holds serious concerns about the government’s decision to allow farmers to continue to sell contaminated produce on the open market, on the basis that consumers purchase food from a wide variety of locations.

“They keep going it’s highly unlikely you would buy meat from the same place twice,” she said.

And I’m thinking this is the Hawkesbury, how would I know that? This is the food bowl of Sydney isn’t it?

“It’s like saying smoke one cigarette, you’ll be fine, but don’t smoke more than one because you’ll get cancer.”

Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman described the findings as “concerning” but welcomed confirmation that local fruits and vegetables are not likely to be affected.

“This is a report we should have had long before now,” the Labor MP said. “Now it is time for Defence to outline what action they will be taking to remediate the contamination.”

The report found a “low and acceptable” risk to horticultural, agricultural and council workers in the area, residents who do not consume home-grown eggs and people from outside the area who use local waterways for recreation.

However, it was acknowledged that the absence of any blood test results for humans and livestock was a “data gap” in the investigation.

Official reassurances about contaminated dust and soil were called into question last year when blood testing commissioned as part of a class action near Newcastle  https://www.theherald.com.au/story/4641830/worrying-trends-from-blood-results/ found a consistent relationship between residents who worked the land and high blood contamination levels.

The AECOM report identified a risk from consuming groundwater, but noted it was not aware of any residents who used it as a drinking water source.

Bakers Lagoon was a contamination hotspot and it was recommended Defence limit the release of contaminated water from its sewage treatment plant into the lagoon.