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Court asks unhappy PFAS class action members to have their say

Katherine property owners needed to live within this contamination zone and have owned their land on November 23, 2016.
Katherine property owners needed to live within this contamination zone and have owned their land on November 23, 2016.

The Federal Court has asked unhappy members of the Katherine PFAS class action to have their say on the settlement.

Katherine residents are set to receive $92.5 million as a result of the successful class action against the Federal Government on PFAS contamination.

There are believed to be 2500 eligible property owners in Katherine in line for some payment.

But many people are unhappy about the size of the settlement, once distributed over such a large number and legal costs are deducted, plus the restrictions on who was “opted in” to the class action.

The judge who will rule on the PFAS class action settlement between Williamtown residents and the federal government has invited any class action members who are dissatisfied with the proposed compensation deal to make their views known to the court.

More than 40,000 Australians will also be involved in a new PFAS class action being filed to the Federal Court by Shine Lawyers in NSW on Thursday.

Residents of Wagga Wagga and Richmond in NSW, Wodonga in Victoria, Darwin and Townsville in Queensland, Edinburgh in South Australia and Bullsbrook in Western Australia also allege their land and water supplies have been contaminated by PFAS chemicals used in military bases.

Lawyers representing Katherine, Oakey in Queensland and Williamtown in NSW reached a proposed $212.5 million settlement with the government in late February for compensation for the loss of property values.

Williamtown residents received $86 million, Oakley residents $34 million and Katherine residents $92.5 million.

Costs for the Williamtown class action are expected to be about 37 per cent of the community’s settlement. By comparison, almost half of the Oakey community’s settlement will be taken in costs.

To be eligible for compensation under the class action you need to own, or have owned, a property within the investigation area as at November 23, 2016.

The investigation area was detailed by Defence during its testing for contamination flowing from the Tindal RAAF Base.

While individual compensation amounts will vary, the court heard one Williamtown property had lost 20 per cent of its value as a result of PFAS contamination.

Justice Lee said he hoped compensation would flow through to members without undue delay.

More reading: Katherine PFAS timeline.

However, an amicus – a independent barrister who would represent the interests of class action members – may be appointed if objections to the proposed settlement required further scrutiny by the court.

“I don’t want to dissuade people from putting in a notice of objection,” Justice Lee said.

Williamtown class action member Rob Roseworn has already written to the court to request that the lawyers be sent back to the negotiating table.

A hearing for approval of the terms of settlement will be held on June 4 and 5. Objectors to the settlement may also be heard at that time.

The court will also consider a proposed $20,000 payment to each of the steering committee members for the time they had spent assisting in the preparation of the class action.

A spokesman for the lawyers representing the Williamtown class action said the committee members had each invested hundreds of hours on the case.

“From day one of this issue, residents on this steering committee have worked tirelessly and unselfishly for their community,” he said.

“That included robust and regular discussions about strategy and approach during the course of over 150 teleconferences with the legal team as well as conducting over 500 media interviews locally and nationally on behalf of the community. The importance of the work performed by the steering committee to assist the legal team cannot be underestimated and we thank them for their support.”

This class action did not make any claim for personal injuries relating to exposure to PFAS contamination.

It is considered this could still happen in the future.

Chris McLennan


Media news

PFAS class action settled over toxic firefighting foam at three Australian defence bases

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich welcomes settlement, saying it allows affected communities to move forward

Firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals. A settlement has been reached over potentially hazardous chemicals used in the foam at three defence bases in Australia.
Firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals. A settlement has been reached over potentially hazardous chemicals used in the foam at three defence bases in Australia. Photograph: United Firefighters Union

The environmental activist Erin Brockovich has welcomed a class action settlement over potentially hazardous chemicals used in firefighting foam at three Australian defence bases.

Shine Lawyers, which represents the actions at Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory, said those affected were thrilled after a five-year wait for justice.

The agreement would compensate communities for extensive property value losses, said Shine’s Joshua Aylward.

Three federal court class actions have been launched over the PFAS chemicals (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances) used in firefighting foam.

The third is related to contamination in Williamtown, New South Wales.

Brokovich said the settlement enabled affected communities to turn the page on a difficult chapter of their lives.

“I know better than most how gruelling and time-consuming class actions can be so I want to congratulate residents for never giving up hope,” she said.

Erin Brokovich has commented on the class action settlement over PFAS chemicals in Australia, saying ‘I want to congratulate residents for never giving up hope.’
 Erin Brokovich has commented on the class action settlement over PFAS chemicals in Australia, saying ‘I want to congratulate residents for never giving up hope.’ Photograph: Jono Searle/EPA

Aylward said: “The people of Oakey and Katherine have been living in limbo for more than five years.

“We’re pleased to have achieved this outcome for these communities and to have helped affected property owners to move forward with their lives.”

The federal government said the parties were finalising detailed terms of the settlement. The terms are subject to federal court approval.

The government said it was committed to engaging with those affected by the contamination.

“Defence sees itself as part of the fabric of these communities,” the defence minister, Linda Reynolds, said in a joint statement with the defence personnel minister, Darren Chester.

“Reaching a settlement is not the end of Defence’s engagement in these communities, however, it does represent an important milestone on what has been a difficult journey for many people over the past few years.”

They said the government was committed to finishing environmental investigations into PFAS contamination around defence facilities, and to ongoing monitoring and engagement with communities.

Source: The Guardian

Media news

PFAS soil stockpiles sitting in Melbourne’s inner-west

Thousands of tonnes of PFAS-contaminated soil are being stored outdoors under plastic sheets in Melbourne’s inner west, as the toxic soil crisis continues to loom over the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel project.

A large soil stockpile is now sitting on the project’s construction site on Mackenzie Road in West Melbourne, with a sign warning of PFAS contamination.

The soil has been classified by Victoria’s environmental watchdog as Category B, which is the second-highest level of contamination.

A stockpile of PFAS-contaminated soil on Mackenzie Road in West Melbourne.
75750A stockpile of PFAS-contaminated soil on Mackenzie Road in West Melbourne.CREDIT:LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

The Environment Protection Authority requires builders to store contaminated soil on-site, before approval is given to move it to an appropriate landfill. But this type of waste is accepted by just one Victorian landfill.

PFAS is a group of potentially carcinogenic chemicals now considered so hazardous that its prolonged use ultimately shut down the CFA training college in Fiskville.

West Gate Tunnel workers say there are about six PFAS stockpiles across the huge project’s construction sites, including at the M80 Ring Road in Brooklyn, Williamstown Road in Port Melbourne, Buchanan Road in Brooklyn and Footscray Road in West Melbourne.

It comes as internal documents show two separate PFAS stockpiles – made up of 4000 tonnes of soil – were kept outdoors, under a sheet of tarpaulin, on tunnel work site near Coode Island last year.

PFAS-contaminated soil is being stored on Mackenzie Road in West Melbourne.
PFAS-contaminated soil is being stored on Mackenzie Road in West Melbourne.CREDIT:LUIS ENRIQUE ASCUI

A 2500-tonne stockpile on Sims Street and a 1500-tonne stockpile on Footscray Road – both referred to as “PFAS storage” – were featured in a presentation to the project’s building supervisors early last year.

“It is now obvious that all those with influence and control over the project all knew about the levels and amounts of contamination … and did nothing,” the CFMMEU’s health and safety unit manager Gerry Ayers said.

“There needs to be some very serious decisions made that ensure all the contaminated soil is removed safely and correctly disposed of.”

Tunnelling is yet to start on the project as joint building venture CPB Contractors and John Holland and Transurban are at an impasse over how to dispose PFAS-contaminated soil.

Workers were instructed to cover the stockpiles on Sims Street and Footscray Road “to stop run-off and erosion”, spray water mist to avoid dust and wash skin exposed to the chemicals.

The stockpiles are understood to have been there from late 2018 to mid-2019 before they were transported to two Victorian landfills – Cleanaway in Ravenhall and Hi-Quality in Bulla.

A West Gate Tunnel presentation to building supervisors identifies two PFAS storage sites.
A West Gate Tunnel presentation to building supervisors identifies two PFAS storage sites.

Tolling giant Transurban is digging up soil near Coode Island to build ramps linking its West Gate Tunnel to the Port of Melbourne. Coode Island is a contamination hotspot after 200 tonnes of firefighting foam laced with PFAS was used to put out a toxic fire sparked by a chemical explosion in 1991.

However, most of the road’s soil is believed to have low or no traces of PFAS.

A government spokeswoman said soil being stored on-site was being managed in line with all EPA and WorkSafe requirements.

“With the appropriate measures in place, storing the soil is not harmful to the public or the environment,” the spokeswoman said.

A Transurban spokeswoman said it was not uncommon for soil to be covered with tarpaulins and weighed down at construction sites before being taken to landfill.

“Any contaminated soil that is dug up on the project is managed in line with EPA requirements to keep workers and the community safe and taken to existing licensed landfill sites for safe disposal.”

A former petrol storage site in Spotswood and an old textile factory in Yarraville within the West Gate Tunnel project area are also believed to be contaminated with PFAS.

A high risk of PFAS in groundwater along the West Gate Freeway and the M80 Ring Road has also been identified.

Meanwhile, the people of Bacchus Marsh, about 60 kilometres west of Melbourne, are fighting a potential plan to dump tonnes of contaminated soil from the tunnel project at the Maddingley Brown Coal landfill site.

On Sunday night, one of the local soccer clubs, the Bacchus Marsh Scorpions, joined the campaign by turning down a major sponsorship deal with Maddingley Brown Coal.

Community members, who will protest against the potential dumping at a rally in the town on Tuesday evening, fear the PFAS-contaminated soil could leach into the surrounding soil and water if it is dumped at the landfill site.

Source: Timna Jacks

with Zach Hope

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Residents fight proposal to store contaminated West Gate Tunnel soil near Bacchus Marsh school

More than a thousand people from a community west of Melbourne have turned out to protest a proposal for contaminated soil from the West Gate Tunnel Project to be stored in a former coal mine.

Key points:

  • The Bacchus Marsh Community Coalition is concerned about the presence of the industrial chemical PFAS in the soil
  • The principal of a school 500m from the proposed dump site said he was worried the material would be untested
  • Transurban said there would be stringent environmental controls in place to protect the community

Citizens from Bacchus Marsh gathered in the main street to express concerns about the impact potentially toxic soil could have on the community if stored in Maddingley Brown Coal Mine, just 5 kilometres from the town centre.

The Bacchus Marsh Community Coalition, which is leading the campaign, is demanding further consultation and information from the project builders Transurban and the State Government.

Spokesperson Kat Barlow said the coalition’s main concern was the potential for PFAS (poly-fluoroalkyl substances) to leak into the waterways.

The industrial chemical has been found in the soil near the tunnel site, prompting a protracted industrial dispute and debate over where the contaminated soil should be stored.

“The Parwan Creek runs directly through the Maddingley Brown Coal site, which runs into Werribee River, which runs into all of our food,” Ms Barlow said.

She said the community felt it was under attack, with the dump site less than 500 metres from Bacchus Marsh Grammar School and adjacent to farming lands.

“[We’re protesting] to be able to protect the health of our people, the health of our rivers, and to protect the heritage overlays and protect this beautiful town,” Ms Barlow said.

“It’s not just food that we’re growing for people in Bacchus Marsh — it affects all of Victoria.

“No one in their right mind would want this in their backyard, never mind in a place which has potential to leak into the waterways that feed a whole community and feed the whole of Victoria.”

Community ‘in the dark’

The principal of Bacchus Marsh Grammar School, Andrew Neal, said community consultation had not been adequate.

“I think the community is concerned on a number of levels. It’s concerned about the fact that it’s not been an active part in the process and it is in the dark,” he said.

PFAS led to the shutdown of the Country Fire Authority’s Fiskville training college in 2015.

It has been linked overseas to an increased risk of some cancers, but Australian authorities deny the link.

A portrait of Andrew Neal outside near a green paddock.
Andrew Neal is worried the soil may be reclassified as dangerous at some point in the future.(ABC News: Sarah Jane Bell)

Mr Neal said he was concerned that up to 230 trucks of soil per day would be going to the site untested.

“It will go into open bays and will potentially stay there for up to 21 days before it is tested,” he said.

“What we don’t want to be is a site where everything is fine at the moment and we’re left with 2.3 million tonnes of material that will potentially be reclassified as dangerous.”Sarah Jane Bell@SarahJaneBell94

A State Government spokesperson said project lead Transurban and the builder are working to find a long term solution to manage the soil from tunnelling and that no decision about where the soil will go has been made. @abcmelbourne @abcnews

The school has called for more data to be released so an independent assessment can be undertaken.

“What we’re after is a situation where we can have direct dialogue with the Government about the nature of the material that’s given, and the data to make our own judgments, which is really the essence of democracy,” Mr Neal said.

The Bacchus Marsh Soccer Club has also taken a stand, returning a $5,000 sponsorship from Maddingley Brown Coal Mine for the 2020 season.

Club president Liam Kiely said the club committee decided they couldn’t support the project, which was “a risk, from a public health point of view”.

Extra measures promised to contain soil

The Calleja Group — which owns the former mine — has proposed to build a soil-processing facility that would operate all day, every day for up to two years.

In a fact-sheet prepared for the community, Maddingley Brown Coal said the site was a designated state-significant waste hub and was licensed to receive industrial waste.

A group of children and an adult hold up signs protesting against a toxic dump.
More than 1,000 people, including school kids, turned out to protest against the proposal.(ABC News: Sarah Jane Bell)

The company said testing showed it was possible low levels of PFAS may be found in the soil from where the tunnel will be built and that extra measures would be put in place to contain the soil.

It is proposed the soil would be unloaded in a covered area and sent for laboratory testing before being disposed of in a purpose-built containment cell, or the existing landfill site.

Any soil that could not be disposed at the site would be taken to an approved facility by truck for disposal or treatment, with the process to be overseen by an Environmental Protection Authority-accredited environmental auditor.

The company said it would provide funds to the Moorabool Shire Council for road maintenance and upgrades required as a result of the project.

‘No decisions have been made’

In a statement, Transurban said the project parties were working with EPA Victoria and a number of soil disposal facilities to finalise plans for tunnelling.

“The project parties and Maddingley Brown Coal continue to engage with the local community and relevant stakeholders to hear their feedback and answer their questions about Maddingley Brown Coal’s proposal,” Transurban said.

A boy with a sign that says I don't want a toxic waste dump next to my school.
The tunnel soil would be taken to a former coal mine less than 500 metres from a school.(ABC News: Sarah Jane Bell)

“Any facilities that are considered will have stringent environmental controls in place to protect the community.

“No decisions have been made yet.

“A number of approvals would be required, including from the EPA Victoria.”

Last week, Premier Daniel Andrews said Bacchus Marsh Grammar had been located next to a brown coal mine since it was opened.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves — safety is very important and the process we are going through is not about compromising safety, it’s about guaranteeing safety,” he said.

He maintained that no decision had been made about where the PFAS soil would go.

“The final decision that will have to be made at some point about the location of that soil, any site that’s chosen will be maintained and designed and built to the highest standard,” he said.

“We are dealing with this challenge because we refuse to take shortcuts on safety, whether it be for those who are building the project or indeed communities that may well be adjacent to purpose-built facilities that would meet the highest standards.”


Media news

Contaminated soil delays tunnelling on West Gate Tunnel

Tunnelling on the $6.7 billion West Gate Tunnel has been delayed due to the discovery of soil contaminated with a chemical that shut down the Fiskville CFA training college.

The project is now facing potential cost blowouts, as the state government, joint-venture builders CPB Contractors and John Holland, and Transurban scramble to find a way to store, transport and clean the contaminated soil found at the site in Melbourne’s industrial west.

Chemicals including asbestos and PFAS, which shutdown the CFA college, have been detected in the ground.

Two 450-tonne tunnel boring machines were lowered at a launch site in Yarraville in August, but sources say they have not moved due to the contaminated soil issue.

The tunnel boring machines on the West Gate Tunnel have not moved, sources say, due to the contaminated soil issue.
The tunnel boring machines on the West Gate Tunnel have not moved, sources say, due to the contaminated soil issue.

Government officials have been locked in meetings with representatives from the Environment Protection Authority, the builders and landfill operators in recent weeks to try to find a solution to the problem.

The West Gate Tunnel, a Transurban toll road set to open by 2022, will link the West Gate Freeway in Spotswood and CityLink in Docklands.

Transurban executive Wes Ballantine said the project’s managers were still working out how to deal with the contaminated soil.

“The project’s two tunnel boring machines are on site and assembly and commissioning is progressing while the project parties finalise preparations for spoil [waste material] management,” he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews touring the West Gate Tunnel site in December last year.
Premier Daniel Andrews touring the West Gate Tunnel site in December last year.CREDIT:AAP

Sources close to the project say the private sector players are asking the government to chip in funds to help deal with the scale of the soil problem.

A government spokeswoman said low levels of PFAS and small amounts of asbestos had been identified in the soil.

She said contaminated soil was common on urban construction projects, especially in former industrial areas.

“Transurban and its builders are working with the EPA and Worksafe to ensure contaminated soil is managed and removed safely, and soil testing is being carried out,” she said.

If the project is not completed on time, Transurban could try to recoup any loss of revenue from their builder, the spokeswoman said.

Principal Consultant at Golder Associates, Andrew Kalitsis, who investigated toxic materials around the West Gate Tunnel for the government’s Environmental Effects Statement, warned there was a high risk that chemicals such as asbestos and PFAS would be found in the groundwater and soil.

“Soil beneath the West Gate Tunnel is likely to be contaminated by substances of waste from historical industrial operations,” Mr Kalitsis warned in his submission in 2017.

Once the tunnel boring machines start digging up thousands of cubic metres of dirt and rock each day, any contaminated soil will need to be separated and safely stored on site before being transported to special waste treatment facilities.

However, the treatment plants currently do not have the capacity to handle the large amount of contaminated soil expected to come their way.

Multiple massive storage facilities may be needed to house the contaminated soil for up to three days at the plants, before it can be properly treated.

Alternatively, an enormous new landfill site could be created and lined with specific fabric to store the soil.

It comes as the Victorian Auditor-General prepares to release a report on the projectnext week, which is expected to criticise the Treasury Department’s handling of Transurban’s market-led proposal.

The audit is expected to find that the government did not adequately explore alternative options and failed to consider how Transurban’s role operating CityLink gave it a competitive advantage.


Media news Regulatory news

Denmark just became the first country to ban PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ from food packaging

(CNN)Denmark will be the first country to ban PFAS chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, elevated cholesterol and decreased fertility, from food packaging, starting next year.

PFAS substances, sometimes called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment, are used to repel grease and water in packaging for fatty and moist foods such as burgers and cakes.What are PFAS chemicals, and what are they doing to our health?

“I do not want to accept the risk of harmful fluorinated substances (PFAS) migrating from the packaging and into our food. These substances represent such a health problem that we can no longer wait for the EU,” Denmark’s Food Minister Mogens Jensen said in a statement Monday.

PFAS chemicals are a family of potentially thousands of synthetic chemicals that are extremely persistent in the environment and in our bodies. PFAS is short for perfluoroalky and polyfluoroalkyl substances, and includes chemicals known as PFOS, PFOA and GenX.

They are all identified by signature elemental bonds of fluorine and carbon, which are extremely strong and what make it so difficult for these chemicals to disintegrate in the environment or in our bodies.

Under Denmark’s new regulation, baking paper and microwave popcorn bags, for example, will be required to be manufactured without any PFAS.

“We congratulate Denmark on leading the way for healthier food and hope this will encourage similar action across the EU, the US and worldwide,” said Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute and the Department of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley.FDA confirms PFAS chemicals are in the US food supply

“Given the potential for harm, we must ask if the convenience of water and grease resistance is worth risking our health,” Blum said.

PFAS chemicals have been manufactured since the 1940s and can be found in Teflon nonstick products, stains and water repellants, paints, cleaning products, food packaging and firefighting foams.

These chemicals can easily migrate into the air, dust, food, soil and water. People can also be exposed to them through food packaging and industrial exposure.

A growing body of science has found that there are potential adverse health impacts associated with PFAS exposure, including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression and cancer.Health agencies to assess chemical exposure in 8 US communities near military bases

In a statement, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration said that the substances were very difficult to break down in the environment, and some of them accumulate in humans and animals.

The ban covers the use of PFAS compounds in food contact materials of cardboard and paper. The Danish government said it would continue to be possible to use recycled paper and paper for food packaging, but said PFAS compounds must be separated from the food with a barrier which ensures that they don’t migrate into the food.

PFOS and PFOA are the two most-studied PFAS chemicals and have been identified as contaminants of emerging concern by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

PFOS was voluntarily phased out of production in the United States by 3M, the main manufacturer, starting in 2000. In 2006, PFOA began to be phased out as well. PFOA and PFOS are no longer manufactured or imported in the United States, but similar “replacement chemicals for PFOA and PFOS such as GenX, may be just as persistent,” Susan M. Pinney, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati, told CNN earlier this year.

The European Food Safety Agency said it is reassessing the risks PFAS pose to human health.CNN’s Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.

Source: CNN

Featured B PFAS technical documents

PFAS fact sheet

Key points:

  • Low levels of PFAS in soil are not harmful to the public, during soil removal, relocation or disposal.
  • PFAS has been widely used, in Australia, and globally, since the 1940s, in a range of everyday applications.
  • Most people are exposed to small amounts of PFAS every day in dust, air, food, water and contact with consumer products containing these chemicals.
  • Scientific understanding about the potential health implications of PFAS is still developing. The Australian Government established an Expert Health Panel for PFAS, to advise the Australian Government. The panel found there is limited to no evidence of human disease or
    other clinically significant harm resulting from PFAS exposure at this time.
  • Despite these findings, the Victorian Government has a strong track record of taking a conservative, safety focused approach to the management of PFAS.

1. What are PFAS?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals, used in products to resist heat, oil, stains and water. Some PFAS have been widely used, in Australia, and globally, since the 1940s, in a range of applications, such as firefighting foams, stain and waterproofing products, cosmetics and sunscreens, kitchenware and medical devices.

2. Why is there concern about PFAS?

PFAS chemicals take a long time to break down in the environment and can travel through soil and water. PFAS can build up and remain in the bodies of humans and animals for years. Due to everyday exposure to small amounts in dust, air, food, water and contact with consumer products containing these chemicals, it would be not unexpected for people to have low levels of PFAS in their blood system.

3. How could PFAS affect me?

Scientific understanding about the potential health implications of PFAS is still developing. The Australian Government established an Expert Health Panel for PFAS, to advise the Australian Government. The panel found there is limited to no evidence of human disease or other clinically significant harm resulting from PFAS exposure at this time. Importantly, the Panel concluded there is “no current evidence that suggests an increase in overall cancer risk”.

As a precaution, the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) recommends minimising PFAS exposure wherever possible. Governments across Australia provide site-specific advice to people living near PFAS investigation areas, on ways to reduce their exposure.

4. Why is PFAS an issue for the West Gate Tunnel Project?

Initial testing shows low levels of PFAS can be expected when tunnelling starts, which has triggered preventative measures. Finding contaminants in soil unearthed during major infrastructure construction is common, especially around former and existing industrial and commercial sites. We are able to manage the soil safely under guidelines provided by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA Victoria).

5. What steps are being taken to protect the public?

The Project is implementing precautionary measures to ensure there is no risk to public safety. This includes reducing dust, covering trucks during transportation, and working with EPA Victoria to protect groundwater. PFAS are not harmful to the public during soil removal, relocation or disposal. Worksafe is also involved in checking that soil handling procedures are meeting the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

6. What about West Gate Tunnel Project workers?

We are following strict regulatory protocols to identify and manage soil, to look after the safety of workers, the community and the environment. We do this in conjunction with regulatory bodies, including WorkSafe and EPA Victoria.

7. Where can I find out more about PFAS?

Commonwealth and State government agencies are developing online resources detailing the latest understanding, approach and advice about PFAS.

They include:

Download the West Gate Tunnel Project PFAS fact sheet – PDF 190 KB


Featured B Regulatory news

The NSW Government PFAS Investigation Program

NSW has a nation leading, state-wide PFAS investigation program underway to identify the use and impacts of legacy PFAS.

The EPA is leading an investigation program to assess the legacy of PFAS use across NSW. With the assistance of the NSW PFAS Technical Advisory Group, which includes NSW Health, Department of Primary Industries and the Office of Environment and Heritage, we provide impacted residents with tailored, precautionary dietary advice to help them reduce any exposure to PFAS.

Current investigations are focused on sites where it is likely that large quantities of PFAS have been used. The EPA is currently investigating PFAS at these sites:  

View the full interactive map here

Sampling and analysis

The EPA is collecting samples of soils and/or waters for analysis for PFAS. The EPA is also looking for exposure pathways that may increase people’s contact with the chemicals, such as bore and surface water usage.

If significant levels are detected and human or ecological exposure is likely, a more detailed assessment will be undertaken.

The EPA will work with the occupiers and owners of these sites, or the responsible parties, to clean-up the site, where necessary.

Timeframes for the investigation

The initial investigations can take approximately six months, with further testing undertaken where required. 

Test findings are made available throughout the investigations.

More information is available on the NSW EPA PFAS investigation process page.

Release of the National Environmental Management Plan for PFAS 

The PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP) provides a clear, coherent and nationally-consistent approach to the environmental regulation of PFAS in Australia. 

The NEMP includes a practical and risk-based framework including guidance on the storage, re-use and disposal of contaminated material, as well as guidance on site assessments and remediation that governments can use to manage and regulate PFAS in their jurisdictions. 

The Plan reflects the current state of knowledge and has been designed to adapt to local circumstances, emerging priorities and as further information about the chemicals becomes available.

Environment ministers agreed in November 2016 that all jurisdictions have a critical role to play in developing nationally consistent standards. Coordinated by the Victorian Environment Protection Authority, all State and Territory Heads of Environment Protection Authorities, and the Australian Government worked to develop and adopt the NEMP. 

Consultation on version 2 of NEMP 

The Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand (HEPA) and the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE) are also working together to develop version 2 of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP Version 2).

HEPA’s National Chemicals Working Group is leading the development and consultation process on the PFAS NEMP Version 2 Consultation Draft, which will inform the finalisation of PFAS NEMP Version 2. To view the consultation draft and to have your say, see the EPA Victoria website.

Working with our stakeholders

The NSW Government is committed to working closely with all relevant government agencies, to closely monitor the progress of investigations, and to keep local communities informed. Government agencies include local councils, NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Health, NSW Food Authority, and where necessary the Commonwealth Department of Defence, and Commonwealth Department of Health.

In NSW the polluter pays for and manages any clean-up required. Although the NSW Government cannot regulate Defence sites, it has outlined expectations that Defence will carry out investigations in a timely manner that is consistent with the EPA’s requirements and processes.

More information