What is the situation at South Nowra?
PFAS investigations at South Nowra Fire Control Centre have now concluded.
Why was PFAS investigated?
NSW RFS identified PFAS containing firefighting foam was used as part of fire training until 2007 at the South Nowra Fire Control Centre, 92 Albatross Road, South Nowra. The has been used as a firefighting training facility for many years, initially when the South Nowra NSW Fire Brigade was under the control of Shoalhaven Council from 1984 until 2001, when NSW RFS was formed.
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 collaboration with SCC. The DSI included the collection of the following samples: 49 soil, 9 groundwater, 21 sediment (10 dry weather and 11 wet weather) and 19 surface water in drain lines and creeks (3 dry weather and 16 wet weather).
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 a small onsite holding dam. Groundwater samples collected as part of the investigation did not exceed the NEMP drinking water guidelines and were under the applicable ecological guidelines. Residents are connected to town water which is safe to use. The HHERA determined there is no risk to human health onsite or off-site.
What happens now?
It was agreed with the EPA that NSW RFS, would develop a site management plan to prevent any potential off-site effects. Precautionary site improvement works commenced in mid-December 2018. Works could include some or all of the following activities:
- removal of sediment in drainage pits (completed)
- removal of approximately 90 tonnes of soil adjacent to a concreted area on site (completed)
- improvements to bunding at the fire training ground
- treatment or removal of affected concrete
- 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.
- Read more about the NSW EPA state-wide PFAS program and Kemps Creek PFAS investigation.
- 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 NSWPFAS Taskforce is taking a precautionary approach to protecting human health.
- You can read more about what the NSW RFS is doing by monitoring this site.
Our commitment to you
We will work to keep you up to date on investigations.
You can register for updates or ask questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Debra Thompson, NSW RFS on 02 8508 4040.
Information updated 14 December 2018