Toxic Chemical Detected Near Mackay Airport
31 July 2019
Toxic firefighting foam, PFAS, has been detected in water and fish in Shellgrit Creek, next to Mackay Airport.
The test results showed elevated levels of the chemical and consequently, possible health risks for people who eat the fish over a long period of time. There is no health risk for people who have infrequently eaten fish from this creek.
Based on the Airservices Australia PFAS testing results, Queensland Health advises that fish caught in Shellgrit Creek next to the Mackay Airport should not be eaten.
The testing also showed that groundwater and surface water inside the airport had PFAS levels above national recreational use guideline values at some locations, while the PFAS levels in surface water at Shellgrit Creek are below the guidelines.
No drinking water is sourced from these waterways and Mackay town water remains safe. The testing is part of an investigation by Airservices Australia and they will carry out further investigations near the airport to verify the extent of contamination and any potential human health or ecological risks from its operations.
As Queensland’s environmental regulator, Department of Environment and Science has been in contact with Airservices Australia and the owner of the airport to ensure thorough investigations are completed. The Queensland Government has made its position clear that we expect Airservices Australia’s investigation to determine the source and extent of any contamination and advise the public of the outcome in a timely manner.
Airservices Australia and Mackay Airport have been directed to erect suitable signs on the creek advising the public not consume fish from the creek. An Airservices spokesperson said the targeted sampling followed a Preliminary Site Investigation undertaken by Airservices at the airport. “The Preliminary Site Investigation report is expected to be released in the coming days. “The offsite sampling results show PFAS detected above human health guidelines in fish sampled in Shellgrit Creek adjacent to the airport. “
Drinking water has not been contaminated.
“The exact source of the PFAS is unknown but the location indicates that it is unlikely be from Airservices’ activities. “Airservices has notified the Mackay Airport and the Queensland state regulator so that appropriate action can be taken. “We have engaged extensively with the Airport and the regulators as part of its investigation and management of PFAS at Mackay Airport and will continue to do so, as part of a risk-based approach to responsibly manage PFAS at Mackay Airport.
“Airservices is undertaking a Detailed Site Investigation at Mackay Airport and this is expected to commence later this year. “Airservices stopped using fire-fighting foam containing PFAS at the airport in 2010” the statement concluded.
Anyone concerned about their health should talk to their doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). Members of the community seeking further information regarding investigations being undertaken by Airservices can email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the internet link: http://www.airservicesaustralia.com/environment/national-pfas-management-program/