What is the situation at South Nowra?
The NSW RFS has identified locations where PFAS foam has been used in significant quantities as part of firefighting training. One of these locations is the South Nowra Rural Fire Service (RFS) site at 92 Albatross Road, South Nowra.
The site is owned by Shoalhaven Council and used by the NSW RFS. The site has been used as a training facility for many years by NSW RFS members.
Following an initial inspection and limited soil sampling at the site by the EPA, the NSW RFS engaged an environmental consultant, Arcadis, to conduct limited baseline testing for PFAS in soil and groundwater on-site, and in groundwater and surface water off-site.
PFAS was detected in a dam on the site and in drainage to Nowra Creek. PFAS was also detected in Nowra Creek.
The presence of PFAS in the environment does not necessarily mean there is a human health risk. It is also important to assess if there are pathways through which people might be exposed to PFAS. For example, exposure via extraction of groundwater on or offsite for drinking or other domestic use is unlikely as the area around the South Nowra RFS is serviced by ‘town-water’ from the Shoalhaven Water supply.
What happens now?
The NSW RFS is working with the Environment Protection Authority and Shoalhaven Council to investigate the extent of any PFAS contamination on the RFS site and off-site in the surrounding area.
A preliminary site investigation by the consultant has identified pathways through which NSW RFS members and local residents may come into contact with these chemicals.
Over the coming months, there will be detailed testing in and around the training area of:
- surface water and sediment in drains, ponds and dams, and Nowra Creek; and
What should you do in the meantime?
Wait for the results of the detailed testing. The detailed testing will assist in determining the extent of the contamination, and any pathways through which NSW RFS members and residents might be exposed to PFAS.
You can read about the statewide PFAS program at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/MediaInformation/pfasinvestigation.htm
You can also learn more about PFAS. There is a range of fact sheets available on the NSW Health website.
You can also read more about what the NSW RFS is doing by monitoring this site.
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