PFAS Contamination

​​​​​​​​​​​​​PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used worldwide in a range of domestic and industrial settings. They are emerging as contaminants of global concern because they do not break down readily and have been found in various concentrations throughout the world.

​​​Per- and poly-fluorinated substances

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, are a group of chemicals that have been manufactured since the 1950s. They are used in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in: the manufacture of non-stick cookware; fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; some industrial processes; and in some types of fire-fighting foams. They do not break down naturally (environmentally persistent), have the ability to bioaccumulate (increase higher up the food chain), and they are linked to adverse impacts on some plants and animals. There are many types of PFAS, with the best known examples being perfluorooctane sulfonate, known as “PFOS", and perfluorooctanoic acid, known as “PFOA". 

An official Australian Government website for PFAS has been established to provide information on PFAS for a wide range of interested audiences. It provides links to PFAS information pages on Commonwealth and State/Territory government agency websites, as well as links to relevant international sites. PFAS-specific guidance materials can also be accessed on this site.

Environmental and human health ​​impacts

While our knowledge of the environmental and human health consequences is still incomplete, the Australian Government is advising a precautionary approach to reduce human exposure to concentrated levels of PFAS. The chemicals are not manufactured in Australia and the Government has been steadily phasing out the importation of products containing PFAS over recent years.​​ 

For authoritative information regarding the human health aspects of PFAS, please refer to the Tasmanian Department of Health's webpage on PFAS; the Commonwealth Department of Health's webpage on PFAS; and including the following publications:

Guidance Statements for the risks associated with PFAS in the environment, produced by enHealth and updated in June 2019. 

​PFAS contamination in Tasmania

Because PFAS have used in many applications, and do not break down easily in the environment, they can be found at low concentrations almost everywhere. However, higher concentrations of PFAS are often found near landfills, sewage treatment plants, industrial sites, and locations where firefighting foams have been used (e.g., mines, fuel refineries and storage facilities, airports, fire training grounds, and transport infrastructure).​

In Tasmania, PFAS contamination has been detected at locations including the Hobart and Launceston Airports, the Tasmanian Fire Service Cambridge Facility and the Australian Maritime College Bell Bay Fire Training Centre.

Several other sites around the State (e.g., fire training grounds at regional airports, firefighting equipment at ports, and large fuel storage facilities) have been identified as potential sites of PFAS contamination. Hence, other PFAS contaminated sites may emerge as more information becomes available and our understanding of the behaviour of these chemicals in the environment increases.

The Tasmanian PFAS Action Plan​ provides an overview of actions being taken on PFAS contaminated sites managed by the Tasmanian Government.

National approach to PFAS management

The Tasmanian Government committed to a national approach for PFAS by becoming a signatory to the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Framework for Responding to PFAS Contamination​ (the Agreement). The Agreement first came into effect on 20 February 2018. 

The Agreement was revised following a review of its operation after one year.  The revisions to the Agreement and its Appendices A and C, which came into effect on 7 February 2020, support strengthened collaboration and cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories to respond consistently and effectively to PFAS contamination. A newly included National PFAS Position Statement (Appendix D) sets out a shared vision of governments to reduce future releases of PFAS into the environment and encourages discussion with industry and other stakeholders about how PFAS should be managed. The Position Statement addresses the sale and use of products and articles that contain long-chain PFAS, states goals in relation to short-chain PFAS use and encourages the development of strategies to transition away from PFAS use. The Position Statement does not, in itself, impose regulatory measures, time-frames or create mechanisms for controlling PFAS use.

At Australian airports, Airservices Australia began to transition away from firefighting foam containing PFAS in the early 2000s and no longer use them.

Version 2 of the PFAS NEMP and Draft Version 3.0

The PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) forms Appendix B to the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Framework for Responding to PFAS Contamination and provides governments with a nationally consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental investigation and management of PFAS-contaminated materials and sites. The PFAS NEMP is to be an adaptive plan, able to respond to emerging research and knowledge.

All states, territories and the Australian Government have collaborated to develop revisions and additions to the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP). The PFAS NEMP 2.0​ was agreed by Heads of EPAs (HEPA) in October 2019 and subsequently endorsed by Environment Ministers​. In those jurisdictions that have endorsed it, including Tasmania, this version supersedes the first version of the NEMP published in 2018.​

The PFAS NEMP 2.0 provided new and revised guidance on four of the areas that were identified as urgent priorities in the first version of the NEMP:

  1. Environmental guideline values

  2. Soil reuse

  3. Wastewater management

  4. On-site containment 

The draft ​PFAS National Environmental Management Plan 3.0 (draft PFAS NEMP 3.0) has built on the above priority areas and has been released for public consultation. You are invited to comment on the draft; the draft document and a feedback form are available at National Environmental Management Plan on PFAS​. Additionally, the presentation slides from the national consultation​ webinars held in December 2022 can be obtained there.

The EPA will host consultation on the draft document as necessary; please contact the EPA if you wish to discuss aspects of the document.​​​​

​​Tasmania​​n PFAS​ Action Plan​

To progress implementation of the Agreement, an interagency Steering Committee chaired by the EPA Director prepared a PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania. The Plan was developed with input from agencies within Government that are responsible for the management of PFAS, including the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management (DPFEM), and Tasmanian Ports Corporation. 

  PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania   (482Kb)​

The PFAS Action Plan was endorsed by the Tasmanian Government in September 2018. It identifies specific actions and areas of responsibility which align with those specified by the Agreement and subordinate documents. 

The PFAS Action Plan includes investigating the presence of PFAS across the broader Tasmanian environment and determining the responsible parties for any sites where the chemicals are present. It outlines the need to manage identified sites on the basis of the risks they present and specifies how the management of PFAS will be integrated into the EPA's ongoing regulation of level 2 activities and contaminated sites.

The EPA has released two progress updates on the Tasmanian Action Plan for PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) on behalf of the Government’s Interagency PFAS Steering Committee and Working Group. Further updates will be prepared on an ongoing basis.

  Progress Update, August 2019, PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania   (474Kb)​

 Progress Update, July 2021, PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania (PDF 423Kb)