Air­port checked for con­tam­i­na­tion


Cockburn Gazette - - NEWS - So­phie Moore

PERTH Air­port is be­ing as­sessed for con­tam­i­na­tion by the same toxic chem­i­cals that leeched into ground­wa­ter and ren­dered farm­land un­us­able around the RAAF Wil­liamtown base in New South Wales.

The cul­prits are the man-made chem­i­cals Per­flu­o­rooc­tane sul­fonate (PFOS) and Per­flu­o­rooc­tanoic acid (PFOA) found in fire­fight­ing foam used at air­ports and Depart­ment of De­fence sites across Aus­tralia.

Fed­eral gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion Airser­vices Aus­tralia, re­spon­si­ble for reg­u­lat­ing fire­fight­ing foam used at gov­ern­men­towned air­ports, is ex­pected to re­lease pre­lim­i­nary test re­sults in a re­port next month.

A Perth Air­port of­fi­cial said they were work­ing closely with a range of State and Com­mon­wealth Gov­ern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Depart­ment of In­fras­truc­ture and Regional De­vel­op­ment (DIRD), Airser­vices Aus­tralia and the State de­part­ments of En­vi­ron­men­tal Reg­u­la­tion and Health in re­gards to man­age­ment of the chem­i­cals.

“Perth Air­port com­plies with the DIRD guide­lines in con­duct­ing risk as­sess­ments on its op­er­a­tions to en­sure the safety of its em­ploy­ees,” the of­fi­cial said.

Fed­eral Greens Sen­a­tor for West­ern Aus­tralia Rachel Siew­ert said that due to Perth’s use of ground­wa­ter and bores, any is­sues of con­tam­i­na­tion would be com­plex.

“Perth has a large num­ber of bores and is par­tic­u­larly re­liant on ground­wa­ter,” she said.

“In the case of Oak­ley (Queens­land) the lo­cal fish­ing in­dus­try was se­ri­ously af­fected. Res­i­dents were un­able to con­sume any­thing caught in the wa­ter­ways and their land be­came un­fit for pur­pose.”

Due to its wide­spread use most peo­ple have small amounts of PFOS and PFOA in their bod­ies.

How­ever, due to its slow degra­da­tion rate, re­peated in­ges­tion can re­sult in their build-up.

Ac­cord­ing to Shine Lawyers, who are act­ing on be­half of Oak­ley landown­ers to de­ter­mine the pos­si­bil­ity of a class ac­tion, blood tests con­ducted on res­i­dents showed they had 44 times the rec­om­mended amount of the chem­i­cals in their sys­tem.

Sen­a­tor Siew­ert said the com­mu­nity needed to re­main in­formed about when and where the con­tam­i­na­tion could spread.

“I don’t want peo­ple to panic and this is where the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment needs to step up and take a na­tional lead­er­ship role to both mon­i­tor the as­sess­ment process and com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple in af­fected com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

A Se­nate en­quiry into the han­dling of the con­tam­i­na­tion around the Wil­liamtown base crit­i­cised the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment for its re­sponse, say­ing it had re­acted slowly con­sid­er­ing the sever­ity of the sit­u­a­tion and had po­ten­tially ex­ac­er­bated men­tal stress by leav­ing peo­ple un­in­formed about de­vel­op­ments.

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