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2018 September: Maribyrnong River u/s Calder Highway (Victoria) – PFAS

Water safety warning

Water safety warning

The EPA has issued a warning to the public to stay away from a number of Brimbank waterways.

The agency recommended that people avoid swimming in the water and keep pets away from Arundel Creek, Deep Creek and Maribyrnong River.

Anglers have been advised not to fish in the Maribyrnong River upstream of the Calder Freeway to Deep Creek at Bulla, and within all of Arundel Creek.

The warning follows a preliminary risk assessment of data provided by Melbourne Airport about levels of PFAS at the airport and in surrounding waterways.

Jacksons Creek and Steele Creek were tested but the warning does not apply to them. Normal drinking water supplies are not affected.

Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals which have historically been used in firefighting foams and other industrial and consumer products.

The airport’s data shows levels in some locations – primarily in Arundel Creek between the airport boundary and Maribyrnong River – are higher than the health-based guidance values for recreational water.

The EPA is now organising a multi-agency working group, including Melbourne Water, Southern Rural Water, DHHS, Agriculture Victoria, Victorian Fisheries Authority, DELWP and relevant councils to conduct further testing of water, soil, plant and aquatic life to better understand any public risks.

The EPA said results from the further tests will be made available to the public as soon as possible. Signage will soon be installed at the affected waterways.

EPA is also contacting 39 Melbourne Water diversion licence holders with advice to cease using water sourced from the Maribyrnong River as a precautionary measure.

While the assessment indicates the use of Maribyrnong River water for irrigation purposes is low risk, further testing will be needed to confirm.

Brimbank council said it had been made aware of the “contamination issues”.

Possible links between PFOS and PFOA exposure and several health effects have been reported in epidemiological studies around the world. However, many of these findings have been inconsistent.