“Almost a million litres of water contaminated with toxic firefighting chemicals was taken from the RAAF’S Amberley air base last year for use in compost to be sold to the public.
One of Queensland’s largest waste disposal companies, NuGrow, has been hit with a state environmental protection order over its alleged unauthorised handling of the contaminated material at its Swanbank facility, west of Brisbane.
The 880,000 litres of water, containing per-fluorinated chemicals that have been linked to cancer, immune suppression and reduced fertility, was trucked in for use as ‘feedstock’ in the manufacture of soil conditioning and compost products.
NuGrow took shipments of the contaminated water for eight days in March and April last year before the operation was shut down by state regulators…
The shipments were stopped once the company was contacted by departmental officers on April 7 last year amid concerns including that the contaminated water could have leaked during downpours from Cyclone Debbie in late March.
NuGrow says the contaminated water had been isolated and that ‘no product containing the material of concern has left the site’. It is now appealing the EPO and claiming that it began taking the shipments only because it had been given clearance to handle low levels of the chemicals in another facility.
But regulators have dismissed the claim, accusing NuGrow of breaching its environmental authority — which banned any organic fluorine chemicals at the Queensland site — and its obligations to a “general environmental duty” in not carrying out activities that cause environmental harm.
In documents obtained by The Australian, Environment Department officers said the Department of Defence had confirmed that the water contained ‘PFAS (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), including but not limited to, PFOS, PFOA and PFCS’.
The Department of Defence provided investigators with emails showing that NuGrow had told it that it was authorised to handle the contaminated water under its environmental authority at Swanbank.
NuGrow responded to the Department of Environment, saying that any offence would be only ‘administrative in nature’ and it believed it had complied with the EA conditions by ensuring levels of the total organic fluorine compounds were so low ‘as to be negligible’.”
Read the full article by Michael McKenna & Rory Callinan