Response to reporting by the Newcastle Herald on guidelines within the Human Health Risk Assessment
19 November 2016
Defence wishes to correct the record in relation to the Newcastle Herald article “Resident slams guidelines” of Thursday 17th November, which states that Defence guidelines provided in the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) report are a “work of fiction”.
The guidelines referenced were recommended by independent environmental consultants and were endorsed by the NSW EPA. Defence funded the report, but the guidelines are not Defence guidelines. Defence relies on relevant health and environment authorities to issue guidelines.
The HHRA for RAAF Base Williamtown was undertaken for Defence by independent environmental consultants. The report assessed the possible human health risks through exposure to soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment, plants and animals in the Investigation Area.
The report outlined precautionary recommendations for residents based on the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) guidance. As a standing committee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, the enHealth committee comprises of representatives from Commonwealth, State and Territory health agencies, on matters relating to environmental health.
Guidance statements issued by enHealth on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) state that “because these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution.”
NSW EPA updated its precautionary advice for people living in the Williamtown area on 8 August 2016, noting that it had reviewed the Defence HHRA and ESA reports for Williamtown RAAF Base and confirmed that the precautionary advice identified in October 2015 were appropriate and would remain in place.
Further information about the precautionary advice provided at the Community Information Session after the release of the HHRA can be found at: http://www.defence.gov.au/id/Williamtown/_master/docs/161102CommunityInformationSession_Stage2BEnvironmentalInvestigationAndHumanHealthRiskAssessment.pdf
Defence will ensure the human health risk assessment is reviewed in light of any new information or regulatory changes.