Toowoomba Regional Council has admitted taking no action to stop the use of potentially contaminated bore water for agriculture.
The primary responsibility for on-property private bores in Queensland’s Oakey region, impacted by Perfluorooctane sulphonate and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS) firefighting foam use at the local army airbase, lies with Queensland’s natural resources, mines and energy department. But, Toowoomba Regional Council representatives, who faced questioning at a parliamentary inquiry in Oakey on Friday, admitted the local council had taken no action to prevent the use of bore water by private landholders and had not asked for state government help to deal with the problem since PFAS water and ground contamination were flagged back in 2012.
The federal government’s defense representatives confirmed during the inquiry the department was aware of potential PFAS contamination issues impacting surrounding properties and water aquifers outside Oakey’s defense airbase boundary in December 2012.
In a statement to Queensland Country Life a spokesperson from the Queensland department of natural resources, mines and energy said it continues “to work with the federal government to ensure landholders in the Oakey region have been notified of PFAS contamination, and continues to provide advice around water quality monitoring as well as alternative water supply options”.
The spokesperson also said any landholders concerned about water quality should contact the department directly.
Oakey stud and commercial cattle producer Dianne Priddle, Berwick Stud, south west of the Oakey airbase said they stopped using their bore water and started bring in hay to feed cattle at the start of 2014 due to PFAS contamination concerns.
“Oakey as a region is sitting on a water alluvial aquifer (underground water), so potential contamination to bore water is a real issue for us in agriculture who rely on maintaining high standards of eating safety for our products in the food supply chain, such as beef people buy at the supermarkets,” Ms Priddle said.
Oakey PFAS contamination government inquiry is underway. Dianne Priddle's emotional speech: "our cattle business is out the window and our dreams of the life we wanted to live seem gone". @qclnews@toowoombaregion#oakey#contamination#inquiry#PoliticsTodaypic.twitter.com/QOMpj3uyxz— Martin Bunyard (@martin_bunyard) August 17, 2018
“It’s a flaming mess, I’ll be dead if the government and it’s defence department doesn’t get this sorted soon.”
The last testing of Ms Priddle bore water showed no PFAS contamination in her bore water but the family’s property does receive overland water flow of potentially contaminated water from Oakey airbase.
According to the latest health guidelines, a tolerable daily intake of PFOS chemical is 0.02 micrograms and 0.16 micrograms of PFOA, which are the two chemicals combined to make PFAS in firefighting foam.
A total of 30 local residents and surrounding property owners attended the PFAS parliament joint standing committee’s examination of the contamination management in and around Oakey’s defence airbase.
Local retired aviation doctor and a rural property owner in the contamination zone, Eric Donaldson, said much of the immediate human health impact has been “negative anxiety” experienced by those potentially impacted from the chemicals, which still has some potential unknown health implications.
The use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foams has now been stopped due to Queensland government regulation.
Related story: Oakey left out of PFAS report
Doctor Andrew Jeremijenko, who works as a occupational physician at Mater Private Hospital, said during his address to the inquiry “it’s really time to start risk managing over wise the federal government may face massive compensation bills”.
“In all parts of Australia, except Western Australia, the use of PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam has been stopped,” Dr Jeremijenko said.
PFAS inquiry chairman Andrew Laming said it’s to early to make links between PFAS and health outcomes, but conceded there are associations between PFAS and potential human health impacts.
Related story: Toxic fears; farmers warned not to eat the beef they sell
A federal government’s report on Oakey’s potential PFAS firefighting foam contamination inquiry will be delivered by mid-October.