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Media Release: Coordinated response to firefighting foam chemical issues

13 Sep 2016

The NT EPA will be working alongside key organisations to ensure a coordinated approach to PFAS (per-and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) investigations in the Territory.

NT EPA Chair Dr Bill Freeland said the widespread nature of historical use of firefighting foams increases the chance of PFASs being present at many locations in the NT.

β€œIt is unlikely that PFAS contamination will be confined to Rapid and Ludmilla Creeks,” Dr Freeland said.

The NT EPA, the Department of Health and other Territory Government agencies, along with Air Services Australia, Darwin International Airport, the Commonwealth Departments of Defence and Infrastructure have formed a working group to ensure a coordinated approach to investigations.

The coordinated approach employs the use of a decision tree to prioritise assessment of PFAS legacy sites according to quantities of PFAS used and the pathways for potential impact on ecosystems and people.

Members of the working group have established terms of reference for their activities.

Any required management actions and regulatory responses (including further investigation work) will be determined on a site-by-site basis.

The Department of Health and the NT EPA detected elevated levels of PFASs in February 2016 samples of water from Rapid and Ludmilla Creeks.

The Department of Health subsequently issued a precautionary advisory to discourage the consumption of aquatic foods from Rapid and Ludmilla Creeks, with further investigations currently underway.

Samples of water, sediment and if required, aquatic food species will be collected from the prioritised sites with results used to assess and inform the public on any risks to human health and the environment. This includes additional sampling in Rapid and Ludmilla Creeks.

Copies of the terms of reference of the working group, the coordinated approach and the decision tree can be found at www.ntepa.nt.gov.au/waste-pollution/compliance/pfas-investigation

Media – for further information contact Sheena Dunne 8999 4726