“Compost contaminated with toxic firefighting chemicals at more than 30 times suggested safe levels and destined for sale to the public has been found at another Queensland recycling facility.

Environmental regulators discovered the high concentrations of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in compost during testing last year and in February at Wood Mulching Industries (WMI) at Swanbank, west of Brisbane. The compost, some of which was about to be trucked out for sale, was blocked by Queensland’s Department of Environment amid concerns it could end up in farms, backyard gardens and even ‘kindergarten play areas’.

WMI is the second recycling and compost-producing company to face regulatory action in the past year over its alleged mishandling and disposal of the PFAS chemical waste.

PFAS chemicals have been linked to cancer, ­immune ­suppression and reduced fertility. NuGrow, another waste-disposal company neighbouring WMI, was last year hit with an environmental order for allegedly breaching its environmental authority in accepting 880,000 litres of stormwater contaminated with PFAS chemicals from the Defence Force’s Amberley air base.

The source of the chemicals found at WMI’s Swanbank site remains unclear. The company denies it handled any material from Amberley or any regulated waste containing PFAS.

The testing allegedly found the concentration of the sum of PFOS and PFHxS was ‘approximately 33 times the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan’s soil human health screening value’ for soil in backyard gardens.

WMI are fighting the action in Queensland’s Planning and Environment Court.

An affidavit filed to the court by environment department officer Graham Cordingley states that he raised concerns about any of the material being allowed to be distributed because it could end up in domestic use close to sensitive environments or receptors such as ‘kindergarten play areas’.

‘The potential for environmental harm being caused as a result of the placement of PFAS-impacted compost at many receiving environments could not be discounted,’ he said.

An investigation is continuing into the alleged contamination.”

Read the full article by Michael McKenna & Rory Callinan