PFAS contamination has been detected in at least five sites across the Shoalhaven according to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) investigation program.
The five locations listed on the investigation’s website include the Shoalhaven River, Currambene Creek, local Defence site HMAS Albatross and the Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell, as well as the Shoalhaven Rural Fire Service (RFS) training site at Nowra on Albatross Road.
Shoalhaven RFS manager Superintendent Mark Williams said PFAS foam had been used in significant quantities as part of firefighting training and one of the locations was the South Nowra Rural Fire Service.
The site is owned by Shoalhaven City Council and used by the NSW RFS as a training facility for many years by NSW RFS members.
After initial inspection and limited soil sampling by the EPA, the NSW RFS engaged environmental consultant, Arcadis, to conduct limited baseline testing for PFAS in soil and groundwater on-site, and in groundwater and surface water off-site.
The report stated PFAS was detected in a dam on the site and in drainage to Nowra Creek. PFAS was also detected in Nowra Creek.
“The presence of PFAS in the environment does not necessarily mean there is a human health risk,” the report said.
“It is also important to assess if there are pathways through which people might be exposed to PFAS. For example, exposure via extraction of groundwater on or off site for drinking or other domestic use is unlikely as the area around the South Nowra RFS is serviced by ‘town-water’ from the Shoalhaven water supply.”
A number of building upgrades have been undertaken at the Albatross Road site over recent years with Supt Williams saying no materials had been taken off site.
“The majority of the building work has been carried out away from our designated training areas, which are towards the rear of the property,” he said.
“Any excavation work that has been carried out on the site, spoils have been used on the site. Nothing has been taken off site.”
Supt Williams said the RFS continues to work with both the EPA and council and the site continues to be monitored and more testing undertaken.
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The EPA said it continues to work collaboratively with RFS and Shoalhaven City Council to ensure an appropriate, scientific and risk-based approach is adopted throughout the investigation, and that the community receives information in a timely manner.
Dietary advice has been issued for a number of fish species in both the Shoalhaven River and Currambene Creek, while extensive investigations have also been undertaking at both Albatross, Creswell and the JB Range.
At Albatross Detailed Site investigation found elevated levels of PFAS in soil, groundwater and surface water on the base, and surface water and groundwater outside the base.
Detailed environmental investigations will also be carried out at Creswell and the Jervis Bay Range Facility after traces of firefighting foams were discovered in ground and surface water.
Surface water testing was undertaken at three sites on the JB Range, two were below recreational use (for things like swimming, playing in water, water skiing, fishing etc) criteria, while one was above recommended levels.
Based on the outcome of this preliminary sampling both sites will undergo more detailed environmental investigations to determine the nature and extent of PFAS on, and in the vicinity of, the base.