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In 2016, the Queensland Government introduced a policy phasing out the use of firefighting foams containing per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. This process is due to be completed by July 2019.

PFAS has been widely used since the 1950s in a range of consumer and industrial products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water. The compounds were also contained in firefighting foam that was used for firefighting and firefighting training at various Australian sites, including civil airports, military air bases, large fuel storage terminals and refineries and ports.

Testing for PFAS

 

The use and storage of the firefighting foam containing PFAS is being phased out and will no longer permitted as of July 2019. As a result, GPC has undertaken voluntary preliminary and validation groundwater testing at its three Ports.

Some elevated concentrations of PFAS were detected on Port Land at Port Central, Gladstone and the Port of Bundaberg. The levels were evaluated according to the Department of Health’s Recreational Water Guidelines (Commonwealth). There have been no exceedances against national guidelines observed in samples taken at the Port of Rockhampton.

In response to groundwater results, GPC initiated a broader scope of sampling including a pilot seafood sampling program in Ship Creek at Port Central. GPC undertook the sampling in accordance with the Queensland Health: Guideline for sampling and analysis of seafood suitable for human health risk assessments of PFAS contamination. Results from the preliminary sampling show traces of PFAS above the Food Standards Australia New Zealand trigger points for investigation in fish caught at one location in Ship Creek.​

 

Health advice

We wish to assure residents that these results do not relate to water connected to town supplies, which are used by Gladstone and Bundaberg residents for drinking. No groundwater at the Ports is used for human consumption.
Bore water can be contaminated by minerals, chemicals, bacteria and viruses through natural processes and human activities. Testing is required to confirm the quality of the water before it is used for domestic purposes such as watering gardens or filling swimming pools.

GPC has offered nearby residents the opportunity to have their bores tested.

The Australian Government recently released the findings of an Independent Expert Health Panel’s report on PFAS exposure. The Panel’s report supports expert health advice that there is very limited or no evidence of any link between PFAS chemicals and adverse human health. However, the Panel noted that even though the evidence for PFAS exposure and links to health effects is very weak and inconsistent, important health effects for individuals exposed to PFAS cannot be ruled out based on the current evidence.

Queensland Health advises based on the pilot sampling results:

  • The public should avoid consuming fish from Ship Creek. However, infrequent consumption (every few months) of a meal of seafood (75 grams for children up to six years and 150 grams for the rest of the population) from the creek should not present a health risk.
  • Fish is an important part of a healthy diet.
  • The public are reminded that consumption of most species of fish from other areas should be limited to 2 to 3 serves per week in line with advice on mercury in fish published by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, where a serve is 75 grams for children up to six years and 150 grams for the rest of the population.
  • Anyone concerned about their health should talk their doctor or call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84).​

Monitoring program

The Corporation’s priority is to conduct further sampling and modelling to understand the nature and extent of any potential PFAS contamination. A conceptual groundwater model has been developed for the Port of Gladstone and the Port of Bundaberg.

Results

Please note that red indicates an exceedance against national guidelines, yellow shows that PFAS was present however levels did not exceed the guidelines and green means that results did not show any signs of PFAS.

Seafood sampling results​

​Please note that red indicates an exceedance against national guidelines, yellow shows that PFAS was present however levels did not exceed the guidelines and green means that results did not show any signs of PFAS.

Port of Gladstone

 

Port of Bundaberg


Groundwater sample locations

Port of Gladstone

 

Port of Bundaberg

 

Port of Rockhampton

 

Groundwater modelling

Following the return of the elevated results GPC commissioned groundwater modelling to help understand the nature and extent of the issue at the Port of Gladstone and Port of Bundaberg.

Groundwater modelling results have been received and indicate that the groundwater’s preferential flow, in both Gladstone and Bundaberg is away from residents.​

Port Central


 

Groundwater model (arrows indicate the groundwater’s preferential flow).

Port of Bundaberg


 

Groundwater model (arrows indicate the groundwater’s preferential flow).

 

Seafood sampling locations

Image 1 – Map of ground water sampling, modelling (1st round March 2018) and seafood sampling (Sept 18)


 

Image 2 – Map of ground water sampling, modelling (2nd round - May 2018) and seafood sampling (Sept 18)