Airport checked for contamination
PRELIMINARY TEST RESULTS OUT NEXT MONTH
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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