2021 February: PFAS contaminated soil removed from Wagga Wagga Airport

PFAS-contaminated soil removed from Wagga Wagga airport, costing almost $1m


A southern New South Wales council has removed 3,000 tonnes of PFAS-contaminated soil from a taxiway at its local airport.

Per and Poly-Fluroalkyl Substances (PFAS) were historically used in firefighting foams and have become a concern in recent years as they can persist in humans, animals and the environment.

Wagga Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson said the council was made aware of the contamination by the federal government a few months ago and the soil has now been excavated from the site.

“It’s been disposed of at Gregadoo [Waste Management Centre],” he said.

“It was actually quite low levels of PFAS.

“Some of the soil though had asbestos fragments in it where clearly someone in the past has buried some fibro or something similar.

“That’s been sent to a different class of landfill that’s licensed to accept that particular asbestos.”

The airport is adjacent to the Royal Australian Air Force base in the Wagga Wagga suburb of Forest Hill, where a 2018 Defence report confirmed there was contamination from the use of PFAS onsite.

“The completed detailed environmental investigation into the presence of PFAS on and in the vicinity of RAAF Base Wagga found the former fire training area to be a PFAS source area,” a spokesman for Defence said.

“This area was historically used by Defence and is currently being leased to Wagga Wagga City Council as part of the Wagga Airport.”

Mr Thompson said the council was not aware of the contamination when it took on the lease.

The soil removal cost the council $936,000.

Little impact on runway upgrade

Mr Thompson said the federal government had agreed to reimburse council, but it was yet to receive the money.

The council is undertaking an almost $6m upgrade of the Wagga airport’s taxiways but Mr Thompson said the soil removal had not greatly affected the project, which is due to be completed later this year.

“I don’t expect to find any more [PFAS], but we didn’t expect to find this either and we didn’t expect to find the asbestos,” he said.