Ambient PFAS Monitoring

​​The PFAS ambient monitoring program is an important component of the PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania.  The EPA has published the Tasmanian Ambient PFAS Monitoring Program 2020 which provides surface water results, and the Preliminary targeted assessment of PFAS in eels downstream of source sites.

 Tasmanian Ambient PFAS Monitoring Program 2020 (PDF 2Mb)

 Preliminary targeted assessment of PFAS in eels downstream of source sites (PDF 661Kb)

Surface water

The Tasmanian PFAS Ambient Monitoring Program 2020 report presents PFAS data collected during autumn and spring 2020 at 76 sites across 32 surface water catchments. The sites were in freshwater or estuarine environments. The program was focused on the major catchments and estuaries of the Tamar and Derwent Rivers and on representation of the range of natural, rural and urban land uses within Tasmania.

In addition to PFAS, several other parameters which may support interpretation of results were analysed at the time of sample collection.  These included electrical conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen levels, nutrients, suspended solids and particulate organic carbon.  Results for these parameters are not detailed in this report.

PFAS compounds were found at approximately 92% of sites. It's important to note that PFAS was generally detected at levels close to the Laboratory limits of reporting i.e., at levels in the parts per trillion. 

PFAS concentrations were typically found to increase lower down in the catchment and in areas of more intense land use before again decreasing in estuarine environments. Headwaters are generally free of PFAS at detectable levels, however, wherever there is human activity in the area the presence of PFAS is more likely. As expected, the highest PFAS concentrations are associated with locations where PFAS containing firefighting foams are known to have historically been used.

Biota

The Preliminary targeted assessment of PFAS in eels downstream of source sites assessed eels from areas downstream of three known source sites, where firefighting foams had been used over time. These locations were at Cambridge in southern Tasmania and Devonport and Launceston Airports in northern Tasmania. Samples were also collected from upstream locations when there were eels present.

The eels captured were mostly composited (combined), with 5 eels per sample. The analyses were conducted for the 34 types of PFAS that are most commonly detected.

The 23 results were compared to relevant human health criteria for consumption of finfish. The criteria were developed by the Commonwealth Department of Health, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the National Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS); refer to the FSANZ Proposed Trigger points for investigation – Fish and Seafood- Finfish (all) as contained in the Consolidated report – Perfluorinated Chemicals in Food, April 2017​​ .

All results were equal to or exceeded the criteria by up to two orders of magnitude.

Exact sampling locations were de-identified to protect private landowner information. The EPA can make no comment on the likely concentrations in eels outside of the vicinity of the sampled areas.

Further Information

Information on work occurring to manage PFAS at the source sites:

Launceston Airport: Tasmanian PFAS Investigations

Devonport Airport and Cambridge Fire Training Ground: PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania July 2021 Update Tasmanian PFAS Investigations

 

EPA contact details are provided at the end of this page.

Department of Health have issued advice not to consume eels from the areas sampled. This advice is precautionary and is based on limited sampling; and will remain in place until further information is available. For further information see Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) | Tasmanian Department of Health or contact: public.health@health.tas.gov.au  or 1800 671 738.

Biosecurity Tasmania administers primary produce safety and advises that eels are not a regulated fish. However, anyone making ready to eat eel products should contact Biosecurity Tasmania for further advice. For further information see the NRE Tas website or contact Biosecurity Tasmania Primary Produce Safety on 03 6165 3777 or foodsafety.enquiries@nre.tas.gov.au

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Australian Government) provide advice on the export of fresh (raw and uncooked) fish products. Phone: 1800 900 090 or visit: Exporting fish and fish products from Australia