A FORMER chief of the fire section at Pearce air base has welcomed a Parliamentary inquiry report, which is damning of successive federal governments and their handling of PFAS contamination.
Retired RAAF firefighter and Flight Sergeant in charge of the fire section at Pearce in the 1990s Wayne Jones said owners and residents on land adjacent to defence land and airfields were the unwitting casualties of the PFAS contamination and had been left anxiously waiting for realistic solutions to mitigate the contamination and compensate them for any financial losses they suffered.
Firefighters around Australia may also be unwitting casualties because they’ve been in direct contact with aqueous film forming foam while participating in training drills and during actual incident responses,’’ he said.
“I fully support all of the recommendations contained in the report, particularly recommendation 1 – the appointment of a coordinator-general to oversee a coordinated national response and recommendation 3 – conduct a review of the existing advice in relation to human health effects of PFAS exposure, including acknowledging the potential links to certain medical conditions.
“I hope at last the federal government will finally appreciate just how extensive and severe the PFAS contamination is and it implements all of the report’s recommendations.’’
Another former Pearce firefighter Greg Hughes said he became a firefighter in 1975.
“We have been spraying foam onto the ground for a lot of years, only stopping in the early 2000s,” he said.
“That was just part of our job, we had to do foam tests.”
The PFAS sub-committee released its report into management of PFAS contamination in and around Department of Defence bases on Monday, December 3.
The report said the Bullsbrook Residents and Ratepayers Association (BRRA) had told the committee that per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) had been found in water from private bores, soil and hen’s eggs on private land around Pearce and in dolphins downstream in the Swan River.
BRRA noted the complex hydrology of the area meant the future movement of contamination plumes were unpredictable.
It also cautioned that not all private bores in West Bullsbrook had been tested, nor had cattle grazing in the investigation area.
The report made no direct recommendation about ensuring West Bullsbrook residents get scheme water or other acceptable alternatives.
At present the department is providing 130 properties surrounding the base with bottled water and has said it will have come back to residents early in the new year with a proposal.
The Coalition Against PFAS (CAP) of which BRRA is a member said the bipartisan federal parliamentary inquiry implied the mishandling of PFAS contamination in Australia was so bad an independent office should be set up to manage it.
CAP president Lindsay Clout said the chairman Liberal MHR Andrew Laming had since said “justice delayed is justice denied” and that a full suite of remediation, blood testing and compensation packages set out in the report should be put in place.
Mr Clout said Assistant Minister David Fawcett had then said the government would not shift from its policy of refusing to implement a broad-based compensation scheme and take a “case by case” approach which was already, “well down the path.”
Mr Clout said not one of 41 compensation cases referred to had been resolved in more than four years.
He said in relation to the government’s “no consistent evidence” claim as to the toxicity of PFAS in the past month alone Italian medical researchers had tied PFAS exposure to dramatic declines in male fertility and researchers from Harvard University had said there was no “justification for delaying risk mitigation actions”.
By Anita McInnes