March 7 2019: Georgetown (NSW) PFAS contamination has entered the groundwater from a former electro-plating facility

March 7 2019

PFAS contamination has entered the groundwater from a former electro-plating facility

Historic PFAS contamination from a Georgetown electro-plating facility has entered the groundwater system and is spreading off the site, an Environment Protection Authority investigation has revealed.

The Broadmeadow Road site was formerly operated by Goninan Platers and used chemicals containing per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as a mist suppressant until about 2006.

Preliminary investigations undertaken in late 2018 and early 2019 indicate that PFAS contamination has migrated from the site, presently occupied by Swanson Industries, in groundwater and may be flowing south-east direction.

The affected area is bounded by Broadmeadow and Boreas Roads, Payne and Clyde Streets.

Residents living in the affected area were advised of the potential contamination threat on Wednesday night and questioned about whether they use groundwater or bore water.

This advice will help identify possible exposure pathways and determine if tailored precautionary dietary advice is required.

The Georgetown investigation follows the discovery of PFAS chemicals in soil and groundwater at the former Hamilton Fire Station and at the former BHP steelworks site beside the Hunter River last year.

A consultant’s report on the Hamilton site recommended the Environment Protection Authority assess potential risks to residents within a 500-metre radius.

An Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman said the authority would provide Swanson Industries with advice on the investigation to ensure that all necessary actions were taken to protect the health of the surrounding community and the environment.

Swanson Industries Managing Director, Paul Pittard, said the company, which provides hydraulic, mechanical and electrical services to the mining and heavy industries, had been working closely with the EPA as part of ongoing investigations.

“Swanson Industries has inherited the site and has not contributed to contamination issues,” he said.

Levels of PFAS contamination at the Georgetown site have not been made public. However, Tests on the 900-square metre block in Belford Street Hamilton show PFAS contamination levels up to 100 times greater than health guidelines for recreational water.

A remediation report for the Hamilton site, prepared by ESP and reviewed by an EPA-accredited auditor, recommends removing soil across 128 square metres to a depth of about one metre.

This section of the site corresponds with gardens that are proposed as part of the site’s redevelopment. The rest of the block will be covered with concrete or bitumen.

It says leachate tests from one borehole indicate “high PFOS concentrations” which “exceed landfill acceptance criteria, including for double composite-lined landfills”.