INVESTIGATION: An area potentially contaminated by chemicals that have leached from firefighting foam used at Camp Kerr for more than three decades.
INVESTIGATION: An area potentially contaminated by chemicals that have leached from firefighting foam used at Camp Kerr for more than three decades. The Department of Defence

Water contamination scare under investigation

THE Department of Defence is investigating possible ground and surface water contamination from chemicals leached from firefighting foam used at Camp Kerr for almost 35 years.

Based on the findings of an initial study a detailed environmental investigation will now assess the nature and extent of per and poly fluoroalkyl substances at and near Camp Kerr, including the residential area of Wallu.

Legacy firefighting foam can contain PFAS, which can get into the water and affect people's health, though the effect is believed to not be significant.

About 40 properties at Wallu could be affected and will be included in the investigation. The town water supply at Tin Can Bay has been tested and ruled safe.

 

INVESTIGATION AREA: Chris Birrer was at the Tin Can Bay RSL on Wednesday where he spoke about possible traces of PFAS in the Wallu area.
INVESTIGATION AREA: Chris Birrer was at the Tin Can Bay RSL on Wednesday where he spoke about possible traces of PFAS in the Wallu area. Philippe Coquerand

Department of Defence first assistant secretary infrastructure division Chris Birrer held a forum at the Tin Can Bay RSL this week to inform residents and reassure them.

"We understand that people are concerned with PFAS and if they do live outside the base at Wallu, we're happy to talk to them," he said.

"There is no immediate concern. If people are in that part of Wallu and they're using a bore for drinking water, then we would encourage them to contact us and then we could get their water tested."

"We rely on State and Federal health authorities for advice.

"The advice is that there are some associations with exposure of PFAS in terms of medical responses."

Mr Birrer said there was no correlation between PFAS exposure and disease in humans.

"We know the key exposure pathway is by drinking contaminated water, particularly ground water," he said.

The Defence Department used fire fighting foams containing PFAS at Camp Kerr between 1970 and 2004.

"In this instance, we can't find many records about the use of foams at the Wide Bay Training Area, but we do understand fire extinguishers were used and discharged into the ground in the past," he said.

There are 27 other sites being studied for PFAS contamination.

"About half of these sites are now transitioned to long-term management and the other half, the investigations are still continuing," he said.

"We have been taking a risk based approach to them. We didn't have records that the foams were used here in the large volumes, but we have picked up through the preliminary site investigations some low level detections."

The detailed site investigation has started and should be completed by November.

It will involve on-site and off-site water, soil and sediment sampling to understand the extent of potential PFAS migration pathways.

A PFAS management area plan is expected by 2020.

Residents in the investigation area will be invited to complete a land and water use survey, which will help determine if additional sampling needs to be conducted.

"Each site is unique in terms of the historic use of foams and other products that contain PFAS. Gympie Regional Council has tested the water and they've said they haven't detected PFAS so there is no question around the reticulated town water here, it's about accessing water through private boars or dams."

Gympie Times


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