Con­tam­i­na­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion spreads to Heart Morass

Field & Game Aus­tralia and its part­ners have in­vested mil­lions of dol­lars and thou­sands of vol­un­teer hours over the past decade to trans­form the Heart Morass from de­graded graz­ing land to a pris­tine wetland but that achieve­ment has been over­shad­owed by an

Field and Game - - HEART MORASS -

On Septem­ber 18, with­out no­tice, Vic­to­ria’s En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA) is­sued an ur­gent no­tice warn­ing against the con­sump­tion of ducks, fish and eels taken from Heart Morass and sur­round­ing wet­lands in the same com­plex.

The alert fol­lowed el­e­vated PFAS (per and poly flu­o­roalkyl sub­stances) in Depart­ment of De­fence (De­fence) test­ing of the wetland en­vi­ron­ment and species con­sumed by hunters and fish­ers.

The wetland is ad­ja­cent to the RAAF base at East Sale, one of 18 De­fence sites na­tion­ally in­cluded in a PFAS In­ves­ti­ga­tion and Man­age­ment Pro­gram.

As a re­sult, FGA, its char­i­ta­ble Wet­lands En­vi­ron­men­tal Task­force, and Heart Morass part­ners the Hugh D.T. Williamson Foun­da­tion, Bug Blitz Trust, Wa­ter­mark Inc. and the West Gipp­s­land Catch­ment Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity, now have to deal with an emerg­ing and com­plex is­sue.

The cur­rent ad­vice is con­fronting and chal­leng­ing. We are seek­ing ex­pert ad­vice on the test­ing and are en­gag­ing De­fence, the EPA and other rel­e­vant par­ties on both short and long-term strate­gies.

The 1375 hectare Heart Morass is an in­vest­ment in the fu­ture and an im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal as­set for our mem­bers and the wider com­mu­nity. Sea Ea­gles have re­turned to nest on the site along with scores of wa­ter­birds, ev­ery known species of duck, sugar glid­ers and an­tech­i­nus. The vul­ner­a­ble growl­ing grass frog and green and golden bell frogs have also found a haven at the Heart.

The EPA ad­vice casts a cloud over Heart Morass but recog­nis­ing the wetland is sup­ports a va­ri­ety of uses, FGA has de­ter­mined to go ahead with the sale of ac­cess keys for 2018, in­clud­ing Duck Sea­son pend­ing fur­ther ad­vice from rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties.

In do­ing so we also want mem­bers to be aware of the cur­rent EPA ad­vice warn­ing against con­sump­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the EPA, peo­ple who have eaten fish, eels or ducks are not con­sid­ered to be at risk of any ad­verse health ef­fects.

How­ever, EPA rec­om­mends that to re­duce and pre­vent ex­po­sure to PFAS, recre­ational fish­ers and duck hunters do not con­sume any an­i­mals caught at the wet­lands un­til fur­ther as­sess­ment can be un­der­taken by the Depart­ment of De­fence.

The EPA will re­lease up­dated ad­vice af­ter De­fence re­leases its for­mal as­sess­ment of test­ing re­sults.

De­fence com­menced a de­tailed en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tion to bet­ter un­der­stand the na­ture and ex­tent of PFAS on and around RAAF Base East Sale in May 2016 and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ex­pected to be com­pleted in late De­cem­ber 2017.

The re­lease of PFAS into the en­vi­ron­ment is an emerg­ing con­cern be­cause these chem­i­cals are highly per­sis­tent, have been shown to be toxic to fish and some an­i­mals, and can ac­cu­mu­late in the bod­ies of fish, an­i­mals and peo­ple who come into con­tact with them.

There is a real ques­tion over the fea­si­bil­ity of en­vi­ron­men­tal cleans­ing to re­duce or elim­i­nate PFAS once con­tam­i­na­tion has oc­curred but the sci­ence is still evolv­ing.

FGA is con­tin­u­ing to work through this com­plex is­sue and we will pro­vide up­dates as soon as new in­for­ma­tion is avail­able.

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