Oakey residents ‘at wits’ end’

originally posted on June 14, 2016


Residents of a Queensland town impacted by defence base pollutants have demanded fair compensation after some lost their life savings.

Toxic firefighting foams used within bases at several sites including the Oakey Army Aviation base, northwest of Toowoomba, and RAAF Williamtown facility in NSW have leeched into ground water systems.

The federal government committed $55 million from the current defence budget to cleaning and managing the toxic chemicals.

It will also fund blood tests as well as health and counselling services.

A group of about 30 Oakey residents, whose properties were impacted, marched to the gates of the town’s base on Tuesday and delivered a letter to Defence Minister, Senator Marise Payne.

“This community opened its heart to army aviation and a happy, symbiotic co-operation existed for many years,” the letter read.

“It is therefore a cruel irony that a section of the community should suffer from the contamination leeched from the aviation centre.”

Residents demanded immediate negotiations towards just compensation for residents who had suffered “demonstrable financial loss”.

But Oakey local and aviation specialist Dr Eric Donaldson, 80, said to label the entire town as “toxic” was nonsense.

“We’re drinking the same water here as the water in Toowoomba,” he told AAP.

“It’s a tragedy that it’s being portrayed as some toxic cesspit. It isn’t.”

Dr Donaldson, who has lived in the town since 1970, said a “comparatively small” group of residents were impacted, but those who were suffered significantly.

“You can see that it’s a tremendous concern for people who’ve put their life savings, and suddenly they say you’re in the `plume of contamination’ – your place is not worth a bumper,” he said.

“That’s the reality of some of these people.

“There are some very tragic stories, I can tell you.”

Dr Donaldson also doubted whether residents would accept mental health counselling.

Defence firemen practised extensively with firefighting foam, which was used throughout the world from the 1970s though to the mid-2000s.

Labor last week committed $20 million to a national task force and 10,000 blood tests for those in affected areas, which also include Fiskville in Victoria and Darwin and Tindal RAAF bases in the Northern Territory.

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