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)
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.
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.
The EPA can make no comment on the likely concentrations in eels outside of the vicinity of the sampled areas.
Based on the biota sampling results, on 28 October 2022, the Department of Health issued advice not to consume eels from the vicinity of 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 PFAS monitoring in eels - advice about eating eels and fish, or contact the Department of Health on 1800 671 738 or email@example.com.
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 Biosecurity Tasmania website, or contact 03 6165 3777, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Australian Government) provide advice on the export of fresh (raw and uncooked) fish products. For further information see Exporting fish and fish products from Australia or contact 1800 900 090.