BOMADERRY man Col Stubbs has welcomed news the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra is undertaking a study to understand the human health effects of Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).
Mr Stubbs, now 60, spent 30 years as a firefighter both as a defence member at numerous navy bases including HMAS Albatross, and as a contractor, has long called for blood testing for personnel exposed to the chemicals which were traditionally used in firefighting foams.
"I think it's a great move," Mr Stubbs said.
The results will be compared with results from Oakey, Katherine and Williamtown, where there is known PFAS contamination.
"I think it's great not only for personnel who worked with the chemicals, but also some of the residents who live around affected areas and bases," he said.
He urged anyone who thinks they might have been exposed to take part in the study.
"It's a free blood test and questionnaire, go and get tested what have you got to lose?"
Members of the Wreck Bay community have also been calling for blood testing to see what effects the chemicals have had on them.
Mr Stubbs shocked those present at a public meeting into PFAS at Nowra Hill in May 2016 when he revealed firefighters used the potentially harmful firefighting foam to wash their dishes and cars when they ran out of detergent.
I think it's great not only for personnel who worked with the chemicals, but also some of the residents who live around affected areas and bases.Col Stubbs
Mr Stubbs said crews were told when the new firefighting foams were introduced it was "glorified detergent".
"It was a new thing, replacing the old blood and bone foam and we were told not to worry about it. It was glorified detergent," he said.
"It looked and reacted like detergent. So we treated it accordingly. Guys would wash their cars in it and use it to do the dishes when we ran out of detergent.
"It was only later on down the track those sort of actions were frowned upon.
"Guys stopped washing their cars with it when they started to fall apart.
"And anyone involved with fire brigades will know that engines that are used with foam are often riddled with corrosion."
Mr Stubbs himself entered a study with the University of Queensland around six months ago.
"It was a federal government funded study into the effects of PFAS," he said.
"I've had blood tests and the likes but haven't heard anything back yet."
He also managed to get a free blood test when testing was being carried out at Oakey Army facility in Queensland, another base he worked at.
"I think it's good something is being done," he said.
No one really seems to know 100 per cent what the health effects are.Col Stubbs
"Look at the poor people around Williamtown and Oakey, look at the compensation they got, a pittance for their land.
"I feel sorry those people who live in and around contaminated areas.
"This is not so much about compensation. No one really seems to know 100 per cent what the health effects are. Does it cause cancer? I know a number of former colleagues have had cancer or died of cancer.
"Overseas seems to have more of an idea than Australia.
"It seems a study starts up and is announced and then we don't hear much about it and it fades away into the background."
Back in 2016 Mr Stubbs revealed he had "some health issues", including a condition where "all of a sudden different parts of his body swell up and blister".
"They stopped using the firefighting foams with PFAS in 2006. I haven't been directly in contact with it for around 15 years or so but blood tests have shown it's still in my system," he said.
"No one really knows.
"I welcome this study, especially for people who live in areas or places near contaminated defence facilities.
"Land owners who might have come into contact with contaminants through drinking water etc.
"For peace of mind get tested see what comes out the other end."
Defence announced in July, Australian engineering, design and advisory company Aurecon has been appointed to deliver its PFAS management and remediation plan at HMAS Albatross.
The project is one of four joint investigation and remediation works being implemented by Defence in partnership with Aurecon at bases around the country as part of its national PFAS Investigation and Management Program.
The work will see the remediation of PFAS, which can remain in the environment, causing contamination to the soil and water of the base, from the locations.
Aurecon's a has undertaken a multi-year environmental investigation and assessment at the base for Defence.
The two-year program will involve Aurecon conducting a detailed study of the distribution of PFAS on the base and removing contaminants to restore affected areas.
Similar studies have also been undertaken at the Jervis Bay Range and HMAS Creswell at Jervis Bay with a PFAS Management Area Plan outlining the activities Defence will undertake to manage, monitor and reduce potential risks of PFAS exposure on, and around, the base and the Ecological Risk Assessment evaluating potential exposure-risks to plants and animals within the investigation area are expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Detail site investigation results, interim Ecological Risk Assessments and Human Health Risk Assessment findings were released in July 2019.