Shoalhaven River water testing at five locations after PFAS contaminated waste water was discharged into the Shoalhaven sewer system have revealed levels well below recommended danger levels.
Shoalhaven City Council and NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) were alerted in May this year that 100,000 litre of PFAS contaminated waste water had been unintentionally discharged into the Shoalhaven sewerage system in March by Sikorsky Aircraft Australia, who provide maintenance services to HMAS Albatross, from the nearby Aviation Technology Park.
The sewerage system flows to the Nowra sewerage treatment plant which once the waste water is treated is ultimately discharged into the Shoalhaven River near Terara.
Shoalhaven City Council has taken the lead investigative role into the incident and as a precaution, EPA obtained additional water samples at five locations in and surrounding the Shoalhaven River on May 30.
The additional water sample results were found to be under the national drinking water and recreational water guidelines and have been reviewed by the NSW PFAS Taskforce, which has advised that no new or additional precautionary dietary advice is required for the area, based on the results.
The national human health criteria for drinking water and recreational water for PFOS and PFHxS is 0.07 micrograms (one millionth of a gram) and 0.56 micrograms while for PFOA it is 0.07 and 5.6 micrograms.
In all five cases the readings were all under 0.06, which was the highest, interestingly which was well up river from the Nowra discharge site.
As the alleged discharge of PFAS contaminated waste water went into the Shoalhaven sewer system and then into the Shoalhaven River, EPA said no soil samples were taken.
PFAS - per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances - are a group of chemicals that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), which were widely used in a variety of applications, including firefighting foams at a number of locations, as well as defence facilities such as HMAS Albatross and the Jervis Bay Range, until being phased out in 2004-05.
At least five sites have been identified as having PFAS contamination issue in the Shoalhaven area.
Shoalhaven Council as the environmental regulator for the Sikorsky premises continues to investigate the incident, however at this stage would not reveal where those investigations were up to and if any possible action would be taken against the company.
At the time the discharge became public Shoalhaven Water director Carmel Krogh alleviated fears about dangers, saying the water had been treated and heavily diluted by the time it hit the river.
"It [the water] would have been heavily diluted," she said.
"There was 100,000 litres in the discharge, we treat six million litres a day at the Nowra plant.
"From a dilution perspective that wasn't our main concern, it was how this had happened in the first place."
The NSW PFAS Taskforce has confirmed that the precautionary dietary advice for the Shoalhaven River issued in October 2018 is still appropriate.
There is no change to current advice for commercial and recreational fishers.
Commercial fishers can continue to sell fish they catch in the Shoalhaven River and this fishery remains open.
Recreational fishers who regularly catch and eat their own fish in the Shoalhaven River can continue to do so safely but should follow the dietary advice for the consumption of Luderick, Sea Mullet, Sand Whiting, Dusky Flathead, Silverbiddy and Mulloway from the identified area, to limit their personal intake.
Oysters are not impacted and are safe to eat.