• 'Ought to have known': Council seeks damages over PFAS contamination

    Posted December 07, 2018 06:18:11

    A southern Queensland council is suing the Federal Government for negligence over the management of land contaminated by firefighting foams.

    The Toowoomba Regional Council has filed the case with the Supreme Court in Brisbane, claiming the Commonwealth had been negligent in its management of the issue.

    Communities in Williamtown in New South Wales, Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory have been affected by the potentially toxic chemicals from firefighting foam used on nearby defence force bases.

    The substance, known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS), has been used in firefighting foams at 18 defence force bases across the country since 1970, but has been phased out of use since 2004.

    The chemicals have remained in the soil and groundwater at some Australian airports and defence bases.

    Impact on assets

    The council has claimed the Federal Government "knew or ought reasonably to have known" as early as 1977 that firefighting foams containing PFAS used at the Oakey Army Aviation Base were potentially damaging to the environment and human health.

    It said because of the Government's actions, the value of its assets, including water bores, treatment plant and water licence had diminished.

    The council said it would also have to spend at least $3 million to secure Oakey's water supply because of PFAS contamination.

    It is seeking an unspecified amount in damages as well as costs, interest and "other relief the Court thinks fit".

    Compensation recommendation

    recommended residents affected by PFAS contamination be compensated.

    It also recommended a coordinator-general be appointed to organise the Government's PFAS response, and that a more long-term resident blood-testing program be implemented to track health impacts.

    The Toowoomba Regional Council chief executive, Brian Pidgeon, would not comment on the matter because it was before the courts.

    The ABC has contacted Environment Minister Melissa Price for comment.

    Topics: laws, federal-government, local-government, environmental-health, defence-industry, water-pollution, land-pollution, oakey-4401, toowoomba-4350, katherine-0850, williamtown-2318, canberra-2600, brisbane-4000

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