The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has welcomed the release of Airservices Australia's Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) Report of PFAS chemicals at Launceston Airport.
PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) have been used globally since the 1950s to resist heat, stains, grease and water in a variety of products, including furniture and carpets, fast-food containers, cleaning, make-up and personal care products, and firefighting foams.
EPA Director Mr Wes Ford said the on-site investigation at Launceston Airport was to look at the potential impacts related to the site's historic use of firefighting foam.
“The results detected PFAS in some sediment and groundwater samples at levels that indicate the need for further investigation," Mr Ford said.
“Airservices plans to undertake a more detailed investigation to better understand on-site PFAS contamination and any potential off-site impacts," he said.
Mr Ford explained that PFAS are chemicals of concern in Australia and the world because they do not break down in the environment; they can travel long distances through soil and water, and into ground water, and can accumulate in low concentrations in animals.
“Although PFAS have not been proven to cause specific illnesses in humans, the Australian Government recommends that human exposure be minimised as a precaution," said Mr Ford.
“The Australian Government has developed a National Response for PFAS contamination, including an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) and an Environmental Management Plan. The Tasmanian Government is a signatory to the IGA, and has developed and is implementing a PFAS Action Plan for Tasmania," he said.
Mr Ford said Airservices Australia was collaborating with relevant Commonwealth and State Government authorities as part of its national risk-based approach for managing legacy PFAS contamination.
“Airservices has shared the results of its investigations with Tasmanian authorities via a regular roundtable with the EPA, Department of Health (DoH), Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and the Launceston Airport," he said.
“Community stakeholders have also been kept informed and Airservices continues to liaise directly with local interests.
“Airservices is expected to continue engaging with government and community stakeholders as it begins more detailed investigations of PFAS at Hobart and Launceston Airports," said Mr Ford.
Meanwhile the EPA is integrating PFAS management into its ongoing regulation of Level 2 activities and is coordinating the implementation of the Tasmanian Action Plan. The Action Plan covers the presence of PFAS across the broader Tasmanian environment, and includes developing a PFAS inventory to identify past use of PFAS at sites around the State; identifying and investigating any chemical storage sites; and managing identified sites according to the risks they present.
A copy of Airservices' Launceston PSI Report (PDF 46MB) along with further information about the National PFAS Management Program is available on the Airservices Australia website.
Further information on PFAS can be found on this website at PFAS Contamination and on the Department of Health website at Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).