PFAS contamination: Richmond residents warned against eating home-grown eggs, red meat

RESIDENTS who live around the Richmond RAAF Base have been advised against eating eggs and red meat sourced from the local area.

The advice comes from the Department of Defence (DOD) and AECOM, who together delivered a Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) report to residents that attended a community consultation at the Hawkesbury Library on Tuesday, November 7.

CONTAMINATION: Richmond resident Joanna Pickford has been told it is not safe to eat her chickens' eggs. Picture: Sarah Falson

CONTAMINATION: Richmond resident Joanna Pickford has been told it is not safe to eat her chickens' eggs. Picture: Sarah Falson

The report is the final outcome of the RAAF Base Richmond PFAS Investigation, which followed the discovery of a ten-square-kilometre plume of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the groundwater under the Richmond RAAF base, with runoff into Rickabys Creek and Bakers Lagoon.

The PFAS contamination came from the use of legacy firefighting foam at the Base, which Defence said was phased-out in 2004.

Residents are advised to minimise intake of eggs from home-grown backyard chickens that have been exposed to water or soil containing detectable PFAS.

They have also been advised to minimise intake of home-grown red meat from sheep or cattle that have consumed water containing detectable PFAS, or have grazed in areas irrigated or flooded with water containing detectable PFAS in the vicinity of Bakers Lagoon and the surrounding water network.

The report noted that there is “currently no consistent evidence that exposure to the PFAS assessed in the HHRA causes adverse human health effects”.

“However, because these chemicals have been shown to have health effects in animals and because these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommended ‘that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution’.”

The report concluded that typical exposure to PFAS to most people in the Study Area around the RAAF Base is unlikely to result in cumulative PFAS intakes that exceed the ‘tolerable daily intake’, and therefore the health risk is “low and acceptable”.

This “low and acceptable” risk refers to residents who don’t eat home-grown eggs, horticultural/agricultural workers, recreational users of local waterways who do not live in the Study Area, and Council workers that during a work day may undertake activities such as maintenance of service pits and surface water drainage networks.

The report marks the completion of the detailed environmental investigation for RAAF Base Richmond.

Defence states it will now focus on management of PFAS with the development of a PFAS Management Area Plan which will outline activities that Defence will undertake to manage and monitor PFAS, within the study area.

The Richmond Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment Reports and related factsheets can be viewed at: www.defence.gov.au/environment/pfas/richmond/publications.asp