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PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP)

Version 2 of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP 2.0) is now available.

All states, territories and the Australian Government have collaborated to develop a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) version 2.0. The final PFAS NEMP 2.0 was agreed by Heads of EPAs in October 2019.

The PFAS NEMP 2.0 is now being implemented in the Commonwealth and other jurisdictions, subject to Ministerial approvals as set out in the plan.

The document has incorporated feedback from the public consultations held in early-to-mid 2019 on the draft PFAS NEMP 2.0.

The original PFAS NEMP (version 1) is also available.

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What are PFASs?

PFASs (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances) are manufactured chemicals that have been used widely in a range of specialty applications such as:

  • some types of fire-fighting foams
  • some industrial processes, such as metal plating and plastics etching
  • some photo-imaging applications, such as X-ray films
  • aviation hydraulic fluid
  • the manufacture of some non-stick cookware and other products
  • some fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications
  • some food packaging.

Industry has phased out some PFASs from use in certain consumer products.

There are many different types of PFASs, with the best known examples being perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, known as PFOS; perfluorooctanoic acid (sometimes referred to as pentadecafluorooctanoic acid), known as PFOA; and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid, known as PFHxS​.

PFASs and the environment

The release of PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS into the environment is an emerging concern globally, because these chemicals are highly persistent, bioaccumulate, can move long distances in the environment, and are linked to adverse impacts on some plants and animals. They can accumulate in the bodies of animals, particularly those that breathe air and consume fish (such as dolphins, whales, seals, sea birds, and polar bears), increasing significantly in the blood and organs of animals higher up in the food chain.

Recently, PFAS contamination has been found at a number of sites, including where fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used. At some sites, PFASs have moved over time from the contaminated soil, and contaminated surface and ground water, and migrated into adjoining environments.

Laboratory studies on animals have identified negative effects on their reproductive, developmental and other systems. Because of the persistence of these chemicals, environmental exposures can occur over long time periods.

What is being done to address PFAS contamination?

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

All Australian governments, including state and territory governments, are sharing information on PFAS contamination with the aim of managing the potential impacts to environment and human health.

The Department has been undertaking four significant streams of work on PFASs:

Hunter River Estuary Ramsar site and chemical contamination

The Hunter Estuary wetlands, near Newcastle in NSW, were designated as a Ramsar site in 1984. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, signed in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that aims to halt the worldwide loss of wetlands and promotes their wise use. There are currently 169 Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention, and 2 280 designated Ramsar wetlands around the world.

Designation of a Ramsar site requires the Contracting Party to maintain the ecological character of the wetland. If the ecological character of a site is subsequently considered to have changed or be likely to change as a result of human activity, it must be reported to the Convention and measures put in place to reverse the change. The NSW Government, who manage the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site, notified Australia’s Ramsar Administrative Authority (the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment) of a potential change in the ecological character of the site, possibly resulting from chemical contamination. In response, an independent investigation was commissioned in November 2017 to determine whether the site has changed or is likely to change in character as a result of chemical contamination. The scientific investigation has been completed and was made publicly available on the Department’s website in November 2019. A description of the next steps that will be undertaken is also available on this website. For further information, please refer to the Frequently asked questions section.

Further information about the Hunter River Estuary Ramsar Site is available at:

Draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance

Note that where any elements in the PFAS NEMP and the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance overlap, the PFAS NEMP takes precedence.

The draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance is a policy document to assist Australian Government agencies to assess and manage PFOS and PFOA contamination. It provides a nationally consistent framework for diagnosis and action on environmental contamination.

The draft Guidance was a significant contribution to joint work by state and territory environment protection agencies and the Australian Government in developing the PFAS NEMP 1.0.

It is critical that we have an aligned and effective regulatory approach to address this issue right across Australia.

The draft Guidance considered the relevant international standards and recent science for PFOS and PFOA. It is largely based on two existing, nationally-agreed frameworks that are used widely for other chemical contaminants: the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality and the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (as amended in 2013).

The draft Guidance includes technical draft default guideline values for both PFOS and PFOA which were developed in 2015 as part of updates to the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (Water Quality Guidelines). The Department of Agriculture leads this process. At the time of release of the draft Guidance, the PFOS and PFOA default guideline values were technical drafts and yet to be communicated as final under the Water Quality Guidelines.

When reading the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance, please note:

  • Freshwater default guideline values are not regulatory standards but are intended to assist the relevant management agencies to achieve long-term water quality objectives.
  • Freshwater default guideline values are environmental guidance values and are not intended to be applied for the purposes of protecting human health. Health protection guidelines, including enHealth health reference values serve this purpose.
  • There can be significant but valid differences in the magnitude of environmental and health protection values for several reasons. These may include the increased sensitivity of some animals compared to humans when exposed to similar environmental concentrations. Also, the levels of exposure will differ between some animals and humans. For example, a fish living in contaminated water is likely to have higher exposure than a person who occasionally drinks contaminated water.
  • The draft Guidance has no regulatory status and it does not replace existing legal requirements, including those under occupational health and safety law.

Download a copy of the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance

Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance on Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) (PDF – 642.8 KB)
Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance on Perfluorooctane Sulfonic Acid (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) (DOCX – 268.79 KB)

Why is there a focus in the draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance on PFOS and PFOA instead of all PFASs?

The draft Commonwealth Environmental Management Guidance focusses on PFOS and PFOA. The reasons for this approach include:

  • Most research undertaken on PFASs internationally, and in Australia, has focussed on PFOS and PFOA due to their frequent occurrence in the environment, persistence and bioaccumulation.
  • PFOS and PFOA can also be the chemical breakdown endpoint of other precursor products.
  • PFOS and PFOA are the most commonly encountered PFAS in the environment and wildlife.
  • Information on other PFASs, of which there are several hundred known, is much more limited. Not all PFASs may have the same effects or the same potencies.
  • Effective management of PFOS and PFOA may help address potential contamination where other PFASs may also be present.

Why are PFAS guideline values for fresh water different from the drinking water values?

Guideline values to protect human health and the environment are developed using methods designed to address the specific sensitivities of the organisms they are protecting (for example, humans compared to fish).

Human exposure is generally intermittent because the main source of these chemicals for people is from drinking water and food. For animals that live in water, however, exposure can occur 24 hours a day.

In addition, some species are more sensitive to certain chemicals than others. The environmental water levels use a method that incorporates data from a wide range of species and can include studies that are multigenerational. Consequently, some of the values will ensure protection of the most sensitive species.

PFAS National Environmental Management Plan

The per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) provides governments with a consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental regulation of PFAS-contaminated materials and sites. The PFAS NEMP is to be an adaptive plan, able to respond to emerging research and knowledge while allowing for the implementation of actions in a way that becomes ‘business as usual’.

Two versions of the PFAS NEMP have been developed by the National Chemicals Working Group of the Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand, at the request of all Australian environment ministers.

The PFAS National Environmental Management Plan contains information including on:

  • communication and engagement
  • PFAS monitoring and assessment
  • evaluation of sites for contamination, and prioritising where action needs to occur
  • sampling contaminated material and the techniques for measuring PFAS concentrations
  • environmental levels that indicate the need for action
  • how to deal with sites contaminated with PFAS
  • waste and its transport and treatment
  • information sharing across Australia
  • future research and work to support the Plan and its revisions
  • evaluating the Plan’s effectiveness and reviewing it as new information becomes available

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

The Stockholm Convention

The Department of the Environment and Energy leads work within the Australian Government on the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The objective of the Stockholm Convention is as follows:

Mindful of the precautionary approach as set forth in Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the objective of this Convention is to protect human health and the environment from persistent organic pollutants. 

These chemicals warrant global action because of their persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long-range transport and adverse effects on human health and / or the environment.

Parties to the Convention, including Australia, participate in the listing process for certain chemicals and consider the actions necessary to give effect to the final decision.

The 2009 PFOS Amendment

PFOS, its salts, and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride (PFOSF) were listed for restriction in 2009 under Annex B of the Convention. Australia is considering ratification of this decision, which has triggered Australia’s domestic treaty making process. The treaty making process includes a range of steps, such as:

  • analysing the policy and management options for import, export, use, and disposal of PFOS
  • preparing a regulation impact statement and a national interest analysis, including possible implementation measures, for managing PFOS
  • tabling the regulation impact statement and national interest analysis for consideration by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.

Further information on this process is available at: Nine new POPs and the treaty making process.

PFOS Regulation Impact Statement for Consultation

The Department has prioritised treaty-making processes to inform a decision by the Australian Government on whether to ratify the listing of PFOS. This includes preparation of a Regulation Impact Statement for consultation: National phase out of PFOS – Ratification of the Stockholm Convention amendment on PFOS. The Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) was released for public consultation for approximately four months. The consultation period closed on 26 February 2018. Comments on the RIS were sought from all stakeholders including state, territory and local governments, industry, and the wider community. The submissions to the public consultation are now available. Stakeholders are welcome to contact the Department to discuss the RIS.

Additional supporting information

The Regulation Impact Statement is informed by extensive technical, scientific and regulatory analysis. It draws on a wide range of research and analysis previously commissioned by the Department, including the following reports:

  • Cost benefit analyses relating to the ratification of the amendments to list four chemicals on the Stockholm Convention: Cost benefit analysis report – Final report, Marsden Jacob Associates, September 2015
  • Update of 2011 and 2012 Analytical Information for PFOS: Final Report, Infotech Research, 11 September 2014
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Executive Summary Report, Infotech Research, 19 February 2013
  • PFOS Control Measures: Cost Benefit Analysis, Essential Economics, February 2013
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Part 1 – Industry Profiling Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Part 2 – Implementation Options Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Technical Advice on the Use, Management, Disposal and Treatment of PFOS and PFOS Containing Wastes – Effectiveness of PFOS Alternatives Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • PFOS Industry Profiling and CBA Consultancy: Technical Advice on the Use, Management, Disposal and Treatment of PFOS and PFOS Containing Wastes – PFOS Disposal Methods and Services Report, Infotech Research, 14 December 2012
  • The Development of Methodolog(ies) for Identification and Segregation of Articles Containing Hazardous Chemicals (PBDEs and PFOS), Australian Environment Agency, 26 May 2011

Copies of these report are available on request. Readers should be aware that these reports reflect the author(s) views and understandings at the time they were written. In some cases, new information has come to light which has necessitated changes to the analysis within the RIS. These reports do not necessarily represent the views of the Australian Government, the Minister for the Environment and Energy, or the Department. Publication does not in any way constitute endorsement of the views of the authors. The Department does not verify the information contained in these reports and makes no representation or warranty about the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material contained in these reports.

PFOA and PFHxS

Perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as pentadecafluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts, and PFOA-related compounds were nominated for listing on the Stockholm Convention in 2015. Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), its salts, and PHFxS-related compounds were nominated for listing in 2017.

The process to list a chemical under the Convention has four stages: three technical review stages and a decision-making stage. The Convention’s technical subsidiary body, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC), undertakes the technical review stages. The fourth and final stage, which is the decision to list on the Convention or not, can only be undertaken by the Convention’s decision-making body, the Conference of the Parties.

Australia will continue to participate actively in the Convention’s processes and in addressing any domestic implementation requirements that may follow.

Links to other Commonwealth agency initiatives on PFASs

Why do Australian guidelines differ from other international standards?

International standards can differ between countries for a variety of reasons, including different methodologies and different environmental conditions. The standards may also be intended for different purposes, such as levels to trigger action, compared to levels that are protective over the short term, compared to levels protective over the long term.

What is the United Nations advice from the Stockholm Convention about PFOA and PFOS?

Further information can be found at: Nine new POPs and the treaty making process.

PFOS, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride were listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants for restriction in 2009. Australia is considering ratification of this decision, which requires a domestic treaty making process.

The process to list a chemical under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants has four stages: three technical assessment stages and a decision-making stage. The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) is the expert committee responsible for the three technical assessment stages. If a chemical passes these first three stages, the POPRC may recommend that it proceed to the fourth stage, i.e. consideration of the listing by the Conference of the Parties.

PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds were nominated for listing on the Stockholm Convention in 2015 and have now passed three of the four stages.

The POPRC’s conclusions at the first three stages were:

  • In 2015, the POPRC decided that PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds met the screening criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long range transport, and evidence for adverse effects.
  • In 2016, the POPRC decided that these chemicals are likely, as a result of their long range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted.
  • In 2017, the POPRC adopted a risk management evaluation of these chemicals and recommended that the Conference of the Parties consider listing them in Annex A or B to the Convention, with specified exemptions.

PFHxS, its salts and PFHxS-related compounds were nominated for listing under the Convention in 2017 and have now passed one of the four stages.

The POPRC’s conclusions at the first stage were:

In 2017, the POPRC decided that PFHxS, its salts and PFHxS-related compounds met the screening criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation, potential for long range transport, and evidence for adverse effects.

Full text of the POPRC decisions on PFOA:

2015

2016

2017

The POPRC decision on PFHxS is yet to be published. Full text of the proposal on PFHxS considered by the POPRC:

Frequently asked questions

PFASs and the environment

What are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) and what are they used for?

Perfluorooctane (per-floo-row-ok-tane) sulfonate (sul-fon-ate) (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic (per-floo-row-ok-tan-oh-ik) acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane (per-floo-row-hecs-ane) sulfonate (PFHxS) are three of the many types of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

Because they are heat resistant and film-forming in water, some have also been used as very effective ingredients in fire-fighting foams.

PFASs are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been widely used, globally, since the 1950s in the manufacture of household and industrial products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, and for other specialised applications. PFASs have been used in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection, food packaging, some industrial processes and fire-fighting foams (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam – AFFF – products).

Fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used in fire training drills and emergencies by the public and private sectors in Australia and worldwide for more than three decades. The Australian Government has worked since 2002 to reduce the use of certain PFASs.

Why have PFASs become a concern in Australia?

Concern about PFAS exposure is emerging globally – not just in Australia – and many countries have discontinued, or are progressively phasing out, their use.

The release of PFOS, PFOA, and PFHxS into the environment is an emerging concern globally, because these chemicals are highly persistent, bioaccumulate, can move long distances in the environment, and are linked to adverse impacts on some plants and animals. They can accumulate in the bodies of animals, particularly those that breathe air and consume fish (such as dolphins, whales, seals, sea birds, and polar bears), increasing significantly in the blood and organs of animals higher up in the food chain.

Laboratory studies on animals have identified negative effects on their reproductive, developmental and other systems. Because of the persistence of these chemicals, environmental exposures can occur over long time periods.

Recently, PFAS contamination has been found at a number of sites, including where fire-fighting foams containing PFAS have been used. At some sites, PFASs have moved over time from the contaminated soil, and contaminated surface and ground water, and migrated into adjoining environments.

We understand communities potentially affected by PFAS contamination are concerned about how this may affect them. Their wellbeing is our absolute focus and we will work closely with them to provide advice and assistance as quickly as possible.

Chemical contamination and the Hunter River Estuary Ramsar site

What is the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site and why is it important?

The site, approximately 7-12 km north of Newcastle on the central coast of NSW, is one of 65 internationally recognised wetlands in Australia. It includes parts of the lower Hunter Estuary, including Fullerton Cove and the adjacent land areas. The site was listed under the Ramsar convention in 1984 for its role in: supporting threatened species, including the Estuary Stingray, the Green and Golden Bell Frog and the Australasian Bittern; supporting a diversity of waterbirds, including migratory species listed under international agreements; and regularly supporting at least 1% of the population of Eastern Curlew and Red-necked Avocet. Further information about the Ramsar wetland is available at the Australian Wetlands Database.

What is the Formal Assessment and why was it conducted?

As a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, Australia is required to report to the Ramsar Secretariat any human-induced change or likely change in ecological character of a site since it was listed and take steps to address that change. As a first step in assessing possible change in ecological character, a formal assessment of any impacts is undertaken to provide independent scientific verification.

This assessment was commissioned by The Department of the Environment and Energy, in collaboration with NSW government agencies and the Department of Defence.

The assessment was triggered by the detection of PFAS contamination at the Department of Defence RAAF Base at Williamtown and off-site in the surrounding area and drainage system.

NSW government agencies notified Australia’s Ramsar Administrative Authority that they believed there was a strong likelihood that PFAS had caused a change in ecological character of the Ramsar site.

To ensure the report provide a comprehensive assessment of potential contaminants, the scope of the investigation included a broad range of chemicals.

The assessment was completed in April 2019.

Is the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site contaminated by hazardous chemicals?

A range of chemicals, have been found in the Fullerton Cove area of the Ramsar site and are appearing in the food chain.

However, it is not possible to categorically determine whether there has been a change in ecological character due to chemical contamination from chemicals historically used near the site.

This is because there is insufficient comparison data.

It remains possible that chemical contamination may lead to a future change in the ecological character of the site.

What impact could chemical contamination have on the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site?

The critical components of the site’s ecological character most likely to be affected by chemical contamination are shorebirds and the green and golden bell frog.

It is considered likely that some chemicals are bio-accumulating in migratory shorebirds foraging in the intertidal mudflats particularly in the Fullerton Cove area and Stockton Sandspit.

Based on an analysis of the data available, the chemicals of primary concern at the Kooragang component of the Ramsar site were identified as lead and PFOS.

Despite the significant data gaps that exist, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that the site has been potentially impacted by a number of contaminants.

Collection of additional site data, particularly for other potential contaminants, would be required to determine whether chemical impacts have resulted in a change in the ecological character of the Ramsar site.

Does this have an impact on human health?

The Formal Assessment only considered the potential impacts of chemical contamination on the ecology of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar site and did not consider human health impacts.

What is the Australian Government doing next to address potential chemical contamination of the Hunter Estuary Ramsar Site?

Significant data gaps that affected the assessment of contaminant levels and associated risk to critical components, processes and services within the Ramsar site included the impacts on waterbird resources (e.g. invertebrates, food sources, habitat). Site specific information on these impacts will need to be collected to determine future management of the site.

The NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment, in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy, the Department of Defence and the NSW EPA will develop an action plan by mid 2020 to address the most significant knowledge gaps around the potential causes of ecological change and options for managing these. This plan will be implemented over the next three years to address the data gaps identified in the Formal Assessment.

How is the Australian Government meeting its international Ramsar commitments?

The Australian Ramsar Administrative Authority (within the Department of the Environment and Energy) will consider whether remedial action is necessary to maintain the ecological character of the Ramsar site following completion of the action plan.

Where can I get more information?

Further information can be obtained by:

  1. reading the executive summary or the complete report available at the Environment Wetlands Database; or
  2. by contacting Ms Leanne Wilkinson at the Department of the Agriculture Water and the Environment (leanne.wilkinson@awe.gov.au; 02 6274 2657).

Source: Environment.gov.au

Categories
PFAS technical documents

Federal Court of Australia Settlement Notices

PFAS Investigation & Management Program


Defence is undertaking a national program to review, investigate and implement a comprehensive approach to manage the impacts of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on, and in the vicinity of, some of its bases around Australia.

From 2004, Defence commenced phasing out its use of legacy firefighting foam containing specific types of PFAS – perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) – as active ingredients. The legacy firefighting foam was used extensively worldwide, and within Australia, from about the 1970s by both civilian and military authorities due to its effectiveness in extinguishing liquid fuel fires. Defence now uses a more environmentally safe product. Furthermore, Defence has made changes to the way it uses firefighting foam to ensure that the risk of releasing the products into the environment is minimised.

Defence is taking a proactive approach to this matter and is working with Commonwealth, state and local authorities in the conduct of its investigations.

Defence is being open and transparent in making the verified test results available to the local community; and is sharing this information with relevant state/territory and local authorities, to assist with planning.

Defence continues to work towards the effective monitoring and management of PFAS contamination on and in the vicinity of affected sites across Australia.


Latest News

Federal Court of Australia Settlement Notices

The Federal Court of Australia has issued settlement notices to members of the class actions against the Commonwealth of Australia in Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine. These notices can be downloaded below.


Source: www.defence.gov.au

Categories
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

Source: westgatetunnelproject.vic.gov.au