Fed Govt releases PFAS contamination recommendations

The Federal Government’s PFAS Sub-Committee has made nine recommendations to improve its response to PFAS contamination.

It is part of a report tabled by the Chair of the PFAS Sub-Committee, Andrew Laming, and analyses the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around defence bases.

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The report recommends establishing a Coordinator-General with the authority and resources to effectively coordinate Federal Government efforts to reduce PFAS contamination and to ensure there is a consistent approach across community consultations and cooperation with state, territory and local governments.

Improvements to voluntary blood testing program could also be used as a source of longitudinal information on the health effects of PFAS exposure and the effective methods to break PFAS exposure pathways.

The Federal Government has also been recommended to assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination from defence bases. This could be undertaken through a comprehensive scheme that is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of individual circumstances.

“I would like to thank and pay tribute to the many members of PFAS affected communities across the country who made submissions to the inquiry and who appeared to give evidence at public and in-camera hearings. I trust that this report honours their effort,” Mr Laming said.

Waste and recycling receive $196M in NSW Budget

The NSW Government has received $162 million more than expected from its waste and environmental levy, while at the same time committing $196 million reduce waste, strengthen recycling and protect the health of the environment in its 2018-19 state budget.

According to the budget papers, the government received a revised $727 million from its waste and environment levy, which it attributes to strong construction sector activity.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority budget for 2018-19 includes $70 million to improve waste management and resource recovery, $8 million for the management of contaminated land and $5 million for asbestos management and emergency clean-up.

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NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the budget provides support for programs and initiatives to reduce litter and waste, while also strengthening recycling and tackling illegal dumping.

“Diverting waste from landfill is a key priority and the NSW Government has set targets to increase the diversion of waste from landfill from 63 per cent in 2014-15 to 75 per cent by 2021,” Ms Upton said.

“The Premier has also made it a priority to reduce the volume of litter in NSW by 40 per cent by 2020, achieved through Return and Earn, Hey Tosser and council and community litter prevention grants.”

In March, a $47 million support package was also announced for the local government and industry to respond to China’s National Sword policy.

“The support package provides a range of short, medium and long-term programs to ensure kerbside recycling continues and to promote industry innovation.”

Ms Upton said there is also funding for the emergency clean-up of asbestos, managing James Hardie Asbestos legacy sites at Parramatta and support for the Broken Hill Lead program and the management of PFAS.

South Australia bans PFAS

The South Australian Government has banned the use of fluorinated fire-fighting foams in the state, following amendments to the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015.

The amendments make South Australia the first state to ban the use of potentially hazardous fluorinated firefighting foams through legislation.

The EPA’s Chief Executive, Tony Circelli said the ban on fluorinated firefighting foams will effectively negate further environmental and human health risks associated with their use.

“The changes will provide the community and industry with certainty around the use of these products,” he said.

“The EPA will work directly with industry needing to transition through licensing, guidance and the development of environment improvement programs.

“We consulted with industry, community and individuals from April 2017 on the proposed ban and found there was strong support for the ban.”

EPA SA in its newsletter noted that considerable work is also underway nationally in the management of legacy contamination from fluorinated firefighting foams led by the federal government.

Australia’s first PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP) has been endorsed and provides governments with a consistent and practical risk-based framework for environmental regulation of PFAS contaminated materials and sites. Read more here. 

National Plan for PFAS released to protect environment and health

The heads of all state and territory EPAs and the Federal Government have released a National Environment Management Plan for PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) to help protect the environment and human health.

PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals which have historically been used in firefighting foams and other industrial and consumer products for decades, according to EPA Victoria. PFAS can also be found in soil, surface water and groundwater in urban areas, and some PFAS are being phased out around the world as they may pose a risk to human health and the environment.

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The National Environment Management Plan for PFAS describes how to properly deal with and clean up contaminated sites, how to best treat soil and waste, and methods for safely destroying the chemicals.

PFAS can make products heat resistant, non-stick, water repellent, and weather and stain resistant.

Prior to the plan, there was no consistent guidance or direction for communities that had been affected by PFAS.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s Executive Director Assessments, Tim Eaton, said PFAS chemicals have been used in a range of products in the past, including pesticides, stain repellents and fire-fighting foams.

“PFAS compounds have had a wide range of uses because they resist heat, chemical and biological degradation, and are very stable,” Mr Eaton said.

“There is now growing concern worldwide about the effects of PFAS on our health and on animals and plants, because of that chemical stability and the fact that they easily enter the environment, moving into soil, creeks, rivers and lakes. We know there are sites with PFAS contamination, so we are working collectively to manage them.”

The plan can be read here.