Navy up­date on chem­i­cals

Southern Telegraph - - News - Ai­den Boy­ham

The De­part­ment of De­fence hosted a com­mu­nity walk-in ses­sion at Quest Rockingham last Thurs­day, re­veal­ing the next stage of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into toxic fire­fight­ing chem­i­cals found on HMAS Stir­ling in 2016.

Two years ago, chem­i­cals called per­flu­o­roalkyl and polyflu­o­roalkyl sub­stances (PFAS) were de­tected at the naval base, with in­de­pen­dent en­vi­ron­men­tal consultant RPS Group en­gaged to carry out an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

PFAS was ini­tially used in fire­fight­ing foams on the is­land, and a num­ber of other de­fence bases around Aus­tralia, un­til it was phased out in the early 2000s.

A pre­lim­i­nary site in­ves­ti­ga­tion was car­ried out in July 2017 be­fore a de­tailed site in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the sam­pling of soil, sed­i­ment, pore wa­ter, sur­face and ground wa­ter was car­ried out.

Di­rec­tor for PFAS in­ves­ti­ga­tions for the De­part­ment of De­fence, Rachel Rees-Scott, said the find­ings showed there was no risk to hu­mans.

“There are, how­ever, ques­tions that we have about eco­log­i­cal health — so we are do­ing a lit­tle bit more work to un­der­stand the ef­fects that the PFAS might have on the en­vi­ron­ment,” she said.

Lead­ing consultant from RPS Group, Colm Cor­co­ran, said the main find­ings from the site in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ported there was PFAS im­pact to soils in each of the source ar­eas, al­beit at very low lev­els.

“PFAS that are present have the po­ten­tial to leach into ground­wa­ter un­der­neath the is­land, and that ground­wa­ter dis­charges into the ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment,” Mr Cor­co­ran said. “So as a re­sult of a re­lease of foams on the is­land, there’s the po­ten­tial for im­pact to the near shore ma­rine ecol­ogy around the is­land.”

As part of the next stage of its eco­log­i­cal risk as­sess­ment, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will col­lect and an­a­lyse data from biota near the shore of HMAS Stir­ling, in­clud­ing sand worms, sea grass and fil­ter feed­ers.

Should PFAS be de­tected at this point then con­sid­er­a­tion will be given to col­lect­ing sam­ples from fish and other an­i­mals.

Fears also over the po­ten­tial con­tam­i­na­tion of the wider Cock­burn Sound area were al­layed, af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion from the Cock­burn Sound Man­age­ment Coun­cil in April 2017 found there was no ev­i­dence of PFAS con­tam­i­na­tion.

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