“Elevated levels of chemicals from a firefighting foam banned in WA 15 years ago have been found in multiple groundwater bores on private properties near a Western Australian military base north-east of Perth.

The chemicals, known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were used in fire retardant at the Pearce Air Force base in Bullsbrook.

An investigation funded by the Department of Defence found contaminated soil, surface water and groundwater at the base.

Six private bores on properties near the base also contained chemicals above the accepted level for drinking water.

According to the health department, evidence from animal studies found the chemicals had the potential for adverse health effects, but the impact on human health remains unclear.

The report is part of a national review into contamination by the fire retardent at 18 air bases across the country.

Department of Defence PFAS Investigation and Management assistant secretary Luke McLeod said six bores had elevated levels, with at least one eight times above the level set by Australian drinking water guidelines.

However Mr McLeod said affected residents had been provided an alternative drinking water source when the investigation began in 2016.

‘What defence does throughout these investigations is share our results with relevant state authorities. Defence is not an environmental health regulator, a health expert, so we do rely on the advice provided by those state authorities to issue any advisories that they may deem necessary,’ Mr McLeod said…

‘What we do know though is that the PFAS is largely contained at the base,’ Mr McLeod said.

‘We do know it’s in the groundwater and it is migrating off, but it’s not migrating off in significant concentrations.

‘So that’s where the implementation of an ongoing monitoring program will allow us to take tests on a regular basis, to predict whether it is moving at a rate greater than what we might have expected, and to implement appropriate measures at that time.’ ”

Read the full article by Emily Piesse and Rebecca Trigger