What is the situation at Austral?
PFAS investigations have commenced at the Austral RFS, 59 Ninth Avenue, Austral. The facility is no longer used for firefighting operations.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) is leading the NSW PFAS investigation program and is monitoring the progress of NSW RFS PFAS investigations at the Austral site.
Why is PFAS being investigated?
Foam containing PFAS was used in firefighting activities, such as fuel type fires and training, by some Rural Fire Brigades since 1975 for the protection of people and property.
The RFS identified PFAS-containing firefighting foam might have been stored or used as part of fire training and operations at this location. As a precaution, the RFS is undertaking investigations to determine if PFAS from firefighting foam might still be present in the environment.
The presence of PFAS in the environment may not necessarily pose a risk to human health or the environment. There is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFOS and PFOA causes adverse human health effects (refer to NSW Health Site). It is important to assess if there are any potential ways in which people might have contact with these chemicals. The primary PFAS exposure pathways are through drinking water containing PFAS, or eating produce that was grown using water containing PFAS. Local residents are connected to the town water supply, which is safe to use.
What testing is being undertaken?
A detailed site investigation was undertaken in 2021 to assess the extent of PFAS at the site. The investigation included sampling of soil, groundwater, surface water and/or sediment by independent environmental consultants on behalf of RFS.
RFS also sought the assistance of nearby residents regarding off-site soil sampling and/or a water use survey as part of the investigation.
What were the results?
Sampling results have confirmed the presence of PFAS in some on-site and off-site soil samples. A Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) was undertaken in 2021 to inform the options been considered in the Site Improvement Options Plan.
What happens now?
RFS and NSW EPA have reviewed the Detailed Site Investigation Report and Site Improvement Options Plan and are planning to implement the recommendations.
Findings of the previous investigations are being validated, taking into consideration the weather events since 2021.
- Read more about the NSW EPA state-wide PFAS program including Frequently Asked Questions
- Questions about the NSW EPA’s state-wide PFAS investigation program can be directed to the NSW Environment Line on 131 555.
- NSW Health has a range of information available about PFAS.
- The Commonwealth Department of Health’s Expert Health Panel provided advice on the health impacts of PFAS (May 2018). While there is no consistent evidence of any human health effects related to PFAS exposure the NSW PFAS Technical Advisory Group is taking a precautionary approach to protecting human health.
- You can read more about what the RFS PFAS investigations by monitoring this site.
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Information updated May 2023