Shoalhaven City Council investigates PFAS contaminated waste water discharge into Shoalhaven River
May 21 2019 South Coast Register
Shoalhaven City Council is investigating how up to 100,000 litres of PFAS contaminated waste water was discharged into the Shoalhaven sewerage system in March this year, and ultimately ended up in the Shoalhaven River.
The waste water was allegedly discharged to the sewerage system from the operations of Sikorsky Aircraft Australia, who provide maintenance services to HMAS Albatross, from the nearby Aviation Technology Park.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website said the sewerage system flows to the Nowra sewage treatment plant which discharges into the Shoalhaven River near Terara, approximately 2km east of the Princess Highway.
PFAS is made up of a number of chemicals including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and had been historically used in fire fighting foams among a host of other applications.
Shoalhaven Water director Carmel Krogh said by the time the contaminated water had been discharged into the river it had been heavily diluted and investigations were centering on how the incident happened in the first place and management practices.
Council notified the EPA after becoming aware of the incident in May 16.
Defence has been undertaking a number of ongoing studies into the contamination at local naval bases HMAS Albatross, HMAS Creswell and the Jervis Bay Range and properties surrounding all three bases for a number of years.
EPA won’t comment on the current investigation which is ongoing, saying Shoalhaven City Council were the lead investigators but was providing support and advice to council.
An EPA spokesperson said it was an ongoing investigation and would comment further pending the outcome of the investigations.
Depending on the outcome of the investigations, it is understood any possible penalties, if required, could be wide ranging.
Sikorsky services the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) 24 MH-60R Seahawk Romeo helicopters.
The 8,300 square metre facility encompasses two buildings – a maintenance repair and overhaul base and a logistic centre warehouse that provides through life support logistics services for the navy’s fleet of Romeos and is home to Sikorsky’s Australia-based, Helitech, Lockheed Martin and the US Navy.
The PFAS Taskforce has advised that no new or additional precautionary dietary advice on fish caught in the Shoalhaven River is required as a result of this incident.
EPA has previously issued dietary advice for certain fish species and other marine life caught in the Shoalhaven River, Currambene Creek and certain areas in and around Jervis Bay due to elevated levels of PFAS being detected.
At the request of the EPA, the NSW PFAS Taskforce has examined sample results of the waste water discharge and has reviewed current precautionary advice.
The PFAS Taskforce has advised that the precautionary dietary advice for the Shoalhaven River issued in October 2018 is still appropriate.
There are no change to current advice for commercial and recreational fishers:
Commercial fishers can continue to sell fish they catch in the Shoalhaven River and this fishery remains open.
Recreational fishers who regularly catch and eat their own fish in the Shoalhaven River can continue to do so safely but should follow the dietary advice for consumption of Luderick, Sea Mullet, Sand Whiting, Dusky Flathead, Silverbiddy and Mulloway from the identified area, to limit their personal intake.
Oysters are not impacted and are safe to eat.
Dietary advice, including a fact sheet, is available at https://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/contaminated-land/pfas-investigation-program/pfas-investigation-sites/Shoalhaven-River
Dietary advice is also available on the DPI website here: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/795629/15042-Shoalhaven-Dietary-Advice-OCT18_V2.pdf