Letter to the Editor of the Guardian Australia
26 July 2017
I am writing to provide further information to your readers regarding the actions being undertaken by the Department of Defence (Defence) PFAS Investigation and Management Program at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Defence recognises the Williamtown community’s concerns in relation to PFAS exposure and has been working with the community and relevant authorities to respond to this issue.
In 2016, the Australian Government provided $55 million for affected communities to manage and contain PFAS contamination in and around Defence Bases, including Williamtown. The funding specifically supports measures including, the provision of alternative sources of water, dedicated mental health and counselling services, an epidemiological study and access to voluntary blood testing.
The Government delivered a financial assistance package of over $2.2 million to eligible individuals and businesses that experienced financial hardship as a result of the NSW Government’s decision to temporarily close the Fullerton Cove and Tilligerry Creek fisheries.
The Government has committed to provide a further $12.5 million over four years from 2017-18 to establish a National Research Program to study the potential effects of exposure of PFAS on human health and whilst research is being conducted the Government recommends that exposure be reduced wherever possible.
In addition to the support outlined above, Defence is undertaking a range of management strategies to reduce exposure to PFAS, informed by environmental investigations that are being conducted by industry experts following nationally agreed environmental investigation processes;
- Provision of drinking water since October 2015 to Williamtown residents who use bore water for drinking.
- Commitment of $4.3 million to the Hunter Water Corporation to fund a Water Reticulation Scheme to provide additional town water infrastructure to eligible properties within the NSW EPA Williamtown Investigation Area.
- The installation in the near future of a water treatment plant treating surface water leaving RAAF Base Williamtown via Moors Drain.
- A Lake Cochran water treatment plant at RAAF Base Williamtown has been fully operational since January 2017 and is treating the outflow of Lake Cochran at the Base, to ensure that PFAS levels are below the adopted drinking water screening criteria.
Defence is currently in the process of engaging industry experts to conduct drain maintenance activities at the Base which will involve the excavation of sediment from the drains to reduce the migration of PFAS from the base into the community through the drainage network.
Defence will continue to engage with the Williamtown community and investigate and implement management strategies to reduce PFAS exposure.
First Assistant Secretary Infrastructure
Department of Defence