Related — Government hit with class action for Katherine PFAS contamination

“PFAS was a chemical used in firefighting foam on Defence bases up until 2010, and a Defence Department risk assessment showed the chemical seeped into waterways and soil in the Top End.

Since it was revealed the chemicals had leached into the environment and residents’ blood streams from the RAAF Base Tindal, the residents of Katherine were offered alternative drinking water and blood tests.

Special counsel for Shine Lawyers Josh Aylward told ABC Radio Darwin they would be seeking compensation and damages for Katherine residents through the lawsuit, which was filed today.

The monetary value of those claims has yet to be determined.

‘The key arguments, it’s really simple: it’s that the Defence Force has, since around 1987, used these firefighting foam chemicals on the base,’ Mr Aylward said.

‘And that these chemicals have spread throughout the Katherine community … the people of the Katherine community have been affected by this … their property values have been affected and that their businesses have been affected.’ …

The class action, filed in the Federal Court of Australia, is an ‘open class’ — which means every resident of Katherine is included.

Mr Aylward said anyone who did not want to be included would have the chance to opt out later.

In July last year Shine Lawyers filed a class action against the Department of Defence on behalf of about 450 residents in the south-east Queensland town of Oakey, seeking up to $200 million in damages over PFAS contamination.

In New South Wales, residents near the RAAF Williamtown base launched a class action in November 2016

Following an interview with Mr Aylward on ABC Radio, Katherine Town Council mayor Fay Miller phoned in, saying she knew nothing of the lawsuit.

Although Shine Lawyers had held town meetings about it, Ms Miller said she had been too busy to attend and believed it would have been ‘good manners’ for the firm to reach out to the town leaders…

Another Katherine resident called Bob who spoke to ABC Radio said he was ‘not particularly happy’ about the lawsuit.

‘I have a property, my bore is very highly contaminated, but I will say this: Defence has bent over backwards to manage the problem and as far as I know anybody with contaminated bores, they have done the same thing,’ he said.

‘I think we’ve got to start speaking the positives of what Defence is actually doing to rectify the problem.’

But local doctor Peter Stafford said the matter had to be ‘taken to the courts’ to ensure those exposed to PFAS contamination were adequately compensated.

‘We are left with no other option, individuals are suffering … if anyone is ignoring anything, I would say the council has ignored the plight of the people here,’ he said.

‘I’ve got a patient who wants to invest in his own business here and needs to get a loan from the bank.’ ”

Read the full article by Elias Clure, Lucy Marks, & Emily Smith