Investigations related to Commonwealth Land
Airservices Australia has been undertaking investigations at Hobart and Launceston Airports as part of a national program for managing legacy PFAS contamination due to historic use of firefighting foams. Under the process detailed in the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Framework for Responding to PFAS Contamination, Airservices Australia is a “known or potential polluter" and thus responsible for activities including identification, assessment and management of potentially contaminated sites and engaging with stakeholders. The Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is responsible for the environmental regulation at airports on Commonwealth land, including Hobart and Launceston airports, under the Airports Act 1996 and Airports (Environment Protection) Regulations 1997.
Additionally, following an Australian Government commitment of $130.5 million, the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts has instigated the PFAS Airports Investigation Program. A pilot program has commenced at eight airports, including Hobart and Launceston.
In accordance with the Tasmanian PFAS Action Plan, the EPA has conducted ambient PFAS monitoring in surface water and biota.
Information about Airservices Australia investigations at Hobart Airport are provided on the Airservices Australia website.
In addition, the Tasmanian Department of Health (DoH) undertook testing for PFAS in locations potentially used for recreation at Pitt Water and at Seven Mile Beach. A
summary document is published on the DoH website. PFAS levels in these water samples were all below the national guideline levels. In all of the samples of shellfish (farmed and wild) taken by both Airservices and DoH, the levels of PFAS were below the laboratory's limit of detection and therefore well below the trigger point value for investigation of foods for human consumption.
PFAS was detected in finfish (flathead and flounder) samples, but at levels below the trigger point value for investigation of foods for human consumption. Hence DoH has advised it is safe to continue to eat fish from Pitt Water in line with general fish and seafood consumption advice and as part of a balanced diet. TasWater has advised that it does not have any drinking water catchments near the Hobart Airport and water from its reticulated system remains safe to drink.
In accordance with the Tasmanian PFAS Action Plan, the EPA has conducted ambient PFAS monitoring in surface water and targeted biota sampling that is relevant to Launceston Airport.
Information about Airservices Australia investigations at Launceston Airport are provided on the Airservices Australia website.
In addition, the Department of Health conducted limited off-site testing and analysis of surface waters, confirming that PFAS contamination has occurred in surface water beyond the Airport boundary. However, no significant risk to the public has been identified in that TasWater supplies reticulated public drinking water to the site and surrounding area, and this reticulated supply has been confirmed to be clean and safe for use.
The Department of Health also assessed fish caught in the North Esk River for PFAS concentrations; this resulted in precautionary advice to not eat fish (including eels) caught in the North Esk River downstream of Corra Linn Gorge/Bridge. The Department of Health have published a
North Esk River Factsheet on their website.