In what can only be described as a shocking health hazard, a new report shows that certain communities have been exposed to toxic water in their water supply for decades!
An investigation from the ABC’s Four Corners team has revealed families living near several Australian Army bases unknowingly exposed themselves to potentially cancer-causing chemicals for years after it leaked into the local water supply and the Department of Defence kept the public in the dark.
The environmental scandal surrounding the toxic firefighting foam used for decades by the Department of Defence is the subject of an investigation, in which the Department of Defence admits it should have warned the public about the scandal three years earlier than it did.
The report by Linton Besser also reveals it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up the mess.
At the centre of the scandal is the foam containing the chemicals PFOS and PFOA, both of which have been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and medically diagnosed high cholesterol in humans.
Last December, there were warnings of at least six places in Australia where the foam had been used and it was unsafe to drink the water.
And in September last year, the United Nation’s Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Stockholm Convention, said that PFOS and PFOA were linked to six diseases — including some cancers — and warranted a global response.
But the official line from the Federal Government back then was that there was no substantial proof the chemicals could cause significant human health risks.
Now, according to Four Corners, the Department of Defence is tackling the perfluorinated chemical pollution at 18 bases across the country after misusing the firefighting foam for decades.
Department deputy secretary Steve Grzeskowiak agreed the Department of Defence had erred in hiding the contamination outbreak for more than three years from the people who live near the Royal Australian Air Force base at Williamtown in NSW.
“I think if we had our time again, should we have told the community back in 2012, from the middle of 2012? We probably should,” he told the program.
At Williamtown, the pollution was not revealed to local residents until 2015.
There were warnings dating back to 1987 that the foam product must not enter the environment.
Despite this, Four Corners says, thousands of litres of the foam were leaked onto the ground or washed into stormwater systems.
Two separate legal class actions have accused the Department of negligence, and are seeking financial compensation.
Mr Grzeskowiak told Four Corners remediation was only just the beginning and he couldn’t say when Williamtown would be free of the pollution or put a price on the cost, but in the past five years “the figure would be in excess of $100 million either currently expended or committed to be expended”.
Asked if the final bill would be “in the hundreds of millions of dollars”, he said: “I would say so.”
In other contaminated areas, Defence is taking a “precautionary approach”, supplying bottled drinking water to several communities including Katherine in the Northern Territory, where the town’s aquifer has been contaminated.
In Oakey in Queensland, Defence documents revealed more than 900 litres of concentrated foam was discharged weekly.
In August last year, the activist who prompted a Hollywood movie, Erin Brockovich, used her celebrity power to put the disaster at Oakey under the microscope.
After meeting with residents, she told them the levels of PFOS and PFOA in their water were “very concerning”.
US Environmental Protection Agency has a drinking water health guideline of 70 parts per trillion for human exposure to PFOA and PFOS.
“There’s a well out in Oakey that has levels as high as 31 parts per million,” Brockovich told news.com.au.
“We’ve never seen anything like that in the States. That’s very concerning. That’s very high.”
It is especially true that in situations like these water filtration is a must. If you have any concerns or inquires please contact us for all the professional advise on how best to protect your families health!