Shoalhaven Fire Control Centre
What is the situation at Shoalhaven Fire Control Centre?
PFAS investigations at Shoalhaven Fire Control Centre at 92 Albratross Road, South Nowra have been completed.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) has been monitoring the progress of NSW RFS (RFS) PFAS investigations at the Shoalhaven Fire Control Centre.
Why was PFAS 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 was undertaken?
A Detailed Site Investigation (DSI) and a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (HHERA), completed in May 2018, were conducted in consultation with the NSW EPA and Shoalhaven City Council.
The HHERA, completed by independent environment consultants, considered and assessed the pathways through which people might come into contact with PFAS, for example:
- site workers carrying out site works
- visitors and temporary maintenance workers
- recreational use of bushland and creeks down gradient to the east of the site
- residents down gradient who might extract groundwater for irrigation
- consumers of biota, such as fish or crustaceans, from the creek to the east of site.
What were the results?
Investigations determined PFAS detections above the PFAS National Environmental Management (NEMP) guidelines for soil were limited to the site and the small dam. Groundwater samples collected as part of the investigation did not exceed the NEMP drinking water guidelines and were under the applicable ecological guidelines. The HHERA determined there is no risk to human health onsite or off-site. Residents are connected to town water which is safe to use.
What happens now?
It was agreed with the NSW EPA that RFS, would develop a site improvement options plan to prevent any potential off-site effects. Precautionary site improvement works commenced in mid-December 2018, including:
- removal of sediment in drainage pits (completed)
- removal of approximately 150 tonnes of soil adjacent to a concreted area on site (completed)
- treatment of a 7 metre square portion of an affected concrete pad cleaning/treatment of water and sediment in the dam to reduce any potential risk of water entering nearby creeks during major rain events. Sediment removed from the site will be disposed of in accordance with EPA waste classification guidelines.
The previous on-site investigation and improvement works are being validated, taking into consideration the weather events since 2021. Following validation, the remaining site improvement works will be implemented.
- 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 2022