Department of Defence, Sydney Water update residents on PFAS contamination at Richmond RAAF Base

A Department of Defence plan to manage and reduce the risks of per- and poly-fluroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination on and around Richmond RAAF Base is due out this quarter.

The PFAS Management Area Plan (PMAP) will include a review of contamination sources and migration pathways, and “evaluate a range of available and practical PFAS management activities for the Base”, Defence stated in its latest Richmond investigation newsletter (view online at bit.ly/2CWtAzM).

Figure 1: The RAAF Base Richmond Study Area. Picture: Department of Defence

Figure 1: The RAAF Base Richmond Study Area. Picture: Department of Defence

Defence is also developing an Ongoing Monitoring Plan that will “outline the sampling program to be carried out by Defence, as part of monitoring the PFAS contamination, over the coming years.”

A statement from Sydney Water - included in the newsletter - indicated that following an initial review of the Defence findings, they “do not think that the report or the monitoring results it contains show an increase in risk to the drinking water supply” for the Hawkesbury area.

The statement said the risk to the North Richmond Water Filtration Plant (WFP) was low, as it was located upstream of the RAAF Base, and while the tide does rise and fall at the WFP, “it is unlikely that PFAS contamination would move that far upstream”.

Susan Templeman MP, Federal Member for Macquarie, welcomed this latest update and said she will be “watching closely” to see what the upcoming Defence PMAP offers Hawkesbury residents impacted by PFAS contamination.

“Hawkesbury residents have waited long enough for action and deserve certainty about the health implications for them, their families and their livestock,” she said.

“I have backed their calls for more testing and better access to information and expect the PMAP to be an open process that takes residents’ concerns seriously.”

She said the Plan must ensure residents and primary producers in the areas surrounding the Base “who’ve had to shout from the roof tops actually get some answers.”

In May 2017, Defence undertook a three-stage environmental investigation to identify the nature and extent of PFAS contamination on and near RAAF Base Richmond, caused by legacy firefighting foam.

In November last year, Defence warned there was a “potentially elevated exposure risk” for people who live in the Study Area (see Figure 1) and: eat large quantities of finfish caught from local waterways and, either home-grown eggs or home-grown red meat; eat large proportions of home-grown poultry, which eat soil or drink water containing detectable PFAS; eat large proportions of home-grown red meat from cattle, which drink water containing detectable PFAS from Bakers Lagoon and surrounding surface water networks.

Ms Templeman wrote to the Assistant Minister for Defence, David Fawcett and spoke in Parliament in response to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade investigation into PFAS contamination in December, urging Government to speed-up the testing of properties, associated livestock and people in the affected area.

She also rallied Government to: provide free testing to a local family of primary producers that spend significant time on the farm, but were told they were not eligible for testing; remove contaminated piles of soil from the RAAF base; and provide a single point of contact for past and present Richmond community members.

East Richmond resident Joanna Pickford, who lives in the Study Area and has been urged not to eat eggs laid by chickens kept in her backyard, called for more transparency about the effects of PFAS on locals.

"Research indicates that people in the Hawkesbury tend to work, live, play and eat here and much of the fresh food that is consumed in the Hawkesbury is grown in the Hawkesbury,” she said.

“The RAAF Base has to be transparent about how much of an impact this has on this area, and start taking care of the community they live in.”

The next Community Information Session is expected to take place in the second quarter of this year.

Find out more about the investigation at www.defence.gov.au/environment/pfas/richmond (click on Publications, then Factsheets for the latest Community Updates), call 1800 789 291 or email richmond.defence@aecom.com.

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