The EPA has released a progress update on the Tasmanian Action Plan for PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) on behalf of the Government's Interagency PFAS Steering Committee, which approved the update in August 2019.
The Progress Update, August 2019, PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania reports on the progress for most action items and provides information in relation to known PFAS contaminated sites that are currently under investigation. These sites include the firefighting training facilities at Hobart and Launceston airports, the Devonport Airport and Tasmanian Fire Services' Cambridge site.
The update also details the completion of project documentation for the development of an inventory of other potential PFAS sites aside from those under current investigation. These include regional airports, bulk fuel storage facilities, landfills and wastewater treatment plants.
An ambient monitoring project has also commenced with a pilot study of PFAS concentrations in water samples from the River Derwent catchment to be followed by sampling at approximately 70 sites around the State.
The Interagency PFAS Steering Committee agreed to stand down in August 2019, having completed its terms of reference, and to delegate the ongoing works under the PFAS Action Plan to the interagency PFAS Working Group. However, if circumstances require, the Steering Committee will be re-called.
The make-up of the interagency PFAS Working Group reflects that of the Steering Committee and has representatives from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Department of Health, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management, and the Tasmanian Ports Corporation.
The 2016 statements from the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) were revised in 2019 to reflect the current evidence relating to PFAS and human health. The enHealth Guidance Statement – June 2019 states that a number of health effects (such as slightly high blood cholesterol) have been associated with PFAS exposure but that these health effects are generally small and have not been shown to be clinically significant.
More research is required before definitive statements can be made on causality or risk but, currently, there is no evidence of a significant impact on human health. EnHealth advises that, given the chemicals continue to persist in humans and the environment, exposure to them should be minimised.
The PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania was endorsed by the Tasmanian Government in September 2018. It identifies specific actions and areas of responsibility, which align with those specified by the Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Framework for Responding to PFAS Contamination. The Government became a signatory to this Agreement prior to the development of the Action Plan, committing to a national approach to managing PFAS.
The Intergovernmental Agreement incorporates the 'polluter pays' principle and assists governments in identifying the responsibility for PFAS contamination. This is complicated by the long history of PFAS use in both the public and private sectors together with cross-jurisdictional issues between Commonwealth and State governments and the various entities they have established over time.
The Tasmanian Government has committed to the completion of the actions in the PFAS Action Plan within two to five years after commencement. The August 2019 Update is the first progress report on the actions and further updates will be prepared on an ongoing basis.
A copy of the report is available below:
Progress Update, August 2019, PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania (474Kb)