PFAS detected in Naracoorte soil

NO CONCERNS: Naracoorte Lucindale Mayor Patrick Ross - who is also a local CFS volunteer- said he was made aware of the PFAS being detected at the old training site. (Picture: Elisabeth Champion, 418051)

Charlotte Varcoe

CHEMICALS previously used by Country Fire Service (CFS) firefighters have been detected at the Region Five Training Centre in Naracoorte.

The block of land tested positive to PFAS, otherwise known as per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

It can also include perfluorooctane (PFOS), perfluorooctane acid (PFOA) and perfluorinated chemicals (PFC).

PFAS chemicals were commonly used since the 1950s in household products and specialist products such as firefighting foams and industrial liquids.

It was used in fast food packaging, the manufacturing process of non-stick products, waterproof clothing, stain resistant material sprays and waxes.

It was also used in some brands of dental floss, metal placing processes, hydraulic fluids in the aviation industry, surfactants in the photography industry and some firefighting foams and extinguishers.

The CFS is currently undertaking environmental assessments around historical use of firefighting foam containing PFAS and how it may have impacted the groundwater and surface water at certain sites.

During a recent estimates committee meeting in Parliament, CFS chief Brett Loughlin said ongoing investigations into PFAS in soil was focused on the State Training Centre at Brukunga and Naracoorte as well as at the Cherry Gardens site.

“We are also in some preliminary stages of doing some investigating of a site at Millicent and we will continue to work through,” Mr Loughlin said.

“There are differences between levels for environmental impacts and levels for human health impacts, so it is very much a case-by-case, site-by-site basis.”

Mr Loughlin said at this stage the CFS had undertaken remediation works at the Brukunga site which included the installation of a water filtration plant.

“There are some minor remediation works that have occurred at Cherry Gardens and also some minor remediation works that have occurred at Naracoorte,” Mr Loughlin said.

“At the Naracoorte site we have the space that we can avoid using the area where there are levels of PFAS recorded in the soil, so that site requires a lot less remediation work at this time.”

Naracoorte Lucindale Mayor Patrick Ross – who is also a local CFS volunteer- said he was made aware of the PFAS being detected at the old training site.

“I do understand that it is being remediated and unfortunately PFAS has been used across the landscape for quite some time as a fire retardant and we would be aware of that happening within the Air Force,” Mr Ross said.

“It certainly has been used by the CFS over many years and firefighters were certainly made aware.”

He said when using firefighting foam or when it was “dropped from the sky” many firefighters were wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment.

“If you had contact, you were wearing personal protective equipment and you took precautions, the personal protective equipment would be washed,” Mr Ross said.

“The good thing is the site is a training site for CFS and knowing it had been used in the past, testing it and discovering PFAS in the soil and doing remediation is a good thing.”

He said the community and firefighters needed to be aware of the substances in the environment and ensure they take the appropriate precautions.

“I am not concerned about the PFAS being in the soil, my hope is the area of contamination is identified and that area is then remediated by whatever method they choose,” he said.

“Being an isolated area and a defined area, one would assume they would remediate it, cover it and have it identified for no future activity.”

Mr Ross said he was not surprised PFAS was detected at the site considering the CFS used the materials.

“You know if it has been used, it was not going to be a surprise to anyone,” he said.

“What I do know is the CFS is one of the emergency services which is incredibly keen to ensure the safety of the volunteer firefighters and do whatever it takes to ensure they are kept safe when they are training and make sure they come home safe every time they go out to an incident, wherever it may be.”