Chemical probe over drinking water fear

By Courtney Todd, originally posted on November 4, 2016


Katherine landholders have been offered alternate drinking water by the Department of Defence as investigations into possible water contamination from firefighting foam at Territory military bases continue.

The department has tested ground and surface water at RAAF Base Tindal, RAAF Base Darwin and Robertson Barracks near Palmerston to check for chemicals found in firefighting foam used from the 1970s to 2004. The chemicals, perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOA), are often referred to as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The Department of Defence was unable to answer questions from the NT News about drinking water or contamination tests yesterday.

In a statement to the ABC, the department said Defence was in communication with landowners where preliminary sampling for PFAS was done near RAAF Base Tindal.

Defence said they would offer alternate drinking water as a standard precautionary measure to those landowners.

The ABC reported the NT Government had been given a preliminary sampling report for review and consultation.

“Following these consultations, Defence will then release the results and the proposed investigation program to the general public,” the Department of Defence said.

“A date for the public release of the results is not yet confirmed but we anticipate that will be in early November.”

The NT News reported in May that alarmingly dangerous levels of the PFAS had been found in Rapid Creek in Darwin.

Save Rapid Creek community group and then NT Environment Protection Authority tested the water after the chemicals were discovered near RAAF Base Williamtown in NSW last year. Contamination was also found in Queensland.

 Defence stopped using firefighting foam containing PFAS in 2004 when it was found PFOS and PFOA contaminants didn’t break down in the environment and could leach into groundwater. The impact on human health from exposure to these chemicals remains unclear, along with safe levels in drinking water.
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