“A warning has been issued that fish caught in waterways surrounding the RAAF Amberley air base, west of Brisbane, should not be eaten after tests found they were highly contaminated with toxic chemicals from firefighting foam.
Queensland Health yesterday issued an alert after the Department of Defence informed it of preliminary results of tests carried out on perch, mullet, catfish and eels caught in Warrill Creek and the Bremer River, around Ipswich…
It is understood that 22 fish were tested, with all but one found to have dangerously high levels of firefighting foam chemicals per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS). The chemicals have been linked to cancer, immune suppression and reduced fertility.
It comes amid an ongoing investigation by The Weekend Australian that has revealed a series of environmental breaches relating to the handling and disposal of waste contaminated with the chemicals from the air base.
An estimated 880,000 litres of PFAS-contaminated waste water and tonnes of ‘vac sludge’ were not properly disposed of when removed from Amberley over the past two years. Some of the material was taken to composting facilities, with subcontractors also alleging that sludge had been deposited on private properties.
Queensland Health broke ranks yesterday afternoon and issued the alert following inaction by Defence, which had responsibility to inform the public. After weeks of discussions, Queensland Health sent a formal request to Defence last week to issue a public alert and begin erecting warning signs along the waterways.
‘As the polluter and the department that conducted the tests, it was Defence’s responsibility to inform the public,’ a source said.
‘Nothing was happening and it appeared that Defence did not want to engage in any meaningful public communication.’
In its public alert, Queensland Health said fish caught in Warrill Creek and the Bremer River should not be eaten. ‘The Department of Defence provided results to Queensland Health of preliminary testing it had done of perch, mullet and eel caught in the area that showed high levels of the chemical and, consequently, possible elevated health risks for people who eat the fish over a long period of time,’ the statement said.
‘Queensland Health has provided the Department of Defence with recommendations so that it could notify the public and undertake further testing. As an interim precaution, until Department of Defence can carry out further testing, people should not eat fish caught within this locality’…
A class action against the Defence Department has been launched over the contamination of soil and water by PFAS in firefighting foam used at the Oakey Army Aviation Centre in southeast Queensland.”
Read the full article by Michael McKenna & Rory Callinan