Test­ing time

An in­ter-agency group led by Vic­to­ria’s En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity and as­sisted by hun­ters is gath­er­ing sam­ples from ducks as re­search con­tin­ues into emerg­ing con­tam­i­nants.

Field and Game - - NEWS -

In Septem­ber 2017, En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity Vic­to­ria (EPA) took the un­prece­dented step of is­su­ing an alert to hun­ters and fish­ers to not con­sume ducks, eel and carp taken from the Heart Morass area of East Gipp­s­land. The area ad­joins the East Sale RAAF base and high lev­els of PFAS had been de­tected.

PFAS are a group of man­u­fac­tured chem­i­cals his­tor­i­cally used in fire­fight­ing foams and other in­dus­trial and con­sumer prod­ucts for many decades.

Due to their wide use, and per­sis­tence in the en­vi­ron­ment, PFAS can be found in soil, sur­face wa­ter and ground­wa­ter in ur­ban ar­eas at low con­cen­tra­tions. Cer­tain PFAS are be­ing phased out around the world be­cause they are not quickly bro­ken down in the en­vi­ron­ment and may pose a risk to hu­man health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

While the body of ev­i­dence con­tin­ues to grow with re­gard to the hu­man health im­pacts of PFOS and other PFAS, lat­est Com­mon­wealth Gov­ern­ment ad­vice re­mains that ‘re­search has not con­clu­sively demon­strated that PFAS are re­lated to spe­cific ill­nesses, even under con­di­tions of oc­cu­pa­tional ex­po­sure.’

How­ever, EPA de­cided a cau­tion­ary ap­proach to pro­tect hu­man health was the pru­dent and re­spon­si­ble path to take.

EPA, through an in­ter-agency group, is lead­ing the ef­fort to bet­ter un­der­stand where PFAS is present in Vic­to­ria par­tic­u­larly in the duck pop­u­la­tion, which is con­sid­ered to be highly no­madic. The Arthur Ry­lah In­sti­tute (ARI) has been en­gaged to source ducks at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions around Vic­to­ria. ARI, on be­half of the In­ter­a­gency Work­ing Group, has been work­ing closely with recre­ational game hun­ters in­clud­ing Field & Game Aus­tralia to col­lect wa­ter­fowl.

Within each sam­pling area, ARI has sought the ad­vice of lo­cal duck hun­ters.

Wa­ter­fowl sam­ples will be an­a­lysed for a suite of emerg­ing con­tam­i­nants in­clud­ing PFAS, met­als, in­dus­trial chem­i­cals, bromi­nated flame re­tar­dants and pes­ti­cides.

An ear­lier scop­ing project col­lected 29 ducks from Heart Morass wet­land, Lake Bo­lac and Hirds Swamp and formed the ba­sis for the cur­rent com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment, the re­sults of which will be avail­able later this year.

The in­ter-agency group is also col­lect­ing fish from wet­lands across Vic­to­ria and EPA is sam­pling wa­ters, sed­i­ment, and soils for the same range of chem­i­cals to un­der­stand the scale of the prob­lem and any risks to hu­man health and the en­vi­ron­ment.

In ad­di­tion, EPA Vic­to­ria along with other state rep­re­sen­ta­tives has been work­ing with the PFAS Task­force in the De­part­ment of the Prime Min­is­ter and Cabi­net (PM&C) to in­form an ap­pro­pri­ate and con­sis­tent whole-of-gov­ern­ment ap­proach.

Aus­tralia’s En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ters have en­dorsed the coun­try’s first PFAS Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment Plan (NEMP).

The PFAS NEMP has been de­vel­oped as an adap­tive plan, able to re­spond to emerg­ing re­search and knowl­edge.

State gov­ern­ments are work­ing to­gether to man­age and re­spond to PFAS con­tam­i­na­tion. This in­cludes: • in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ex­tent of PFAS con­tam­i­na­tion on and around con­tam­i­nated sites; • lim­it­ing the use of PFAS where

pos­si­ble; • un­der­tak­ing new re­search and analysing ex­ist­ing stud­ies to bet­ter un­der­stand any hu­man health ef­fects and the en­vi­ron­men­tal risks from PFAS ex­po­sure; • un­der­tak­ing man­age­ment ac­tiv­i­ties to min­imise the mi­gra­tion of PFAS off-site; • en­gag­ing with stake­hold­ers to en­cour­age co-op­er­a­tion in man­ag­ing and re­spond­ing to PFAS con­tam­i­na­tion issues; and • pro­vid­ing sup­port to af­fected

com­mu­ni­ties.

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