Map showing the waterways that fall under the public health advice for catch and release only. People should not consume fish caught in these areas.
Map showing the waterways that fall under the public health advice for catch and release only. People should not consume fish caught in these areas.

PFAS contamination and the public’s right to know

THE government has remained tight lipped on the subject of PFAS contamination in Ipswich and the full extent of its associated health risks.

Last month, Member for Blair Shayne Neumann claimed the Department of Defence and the Federal Government had consistently downplayed the impact of PFAS contamination Amberley Royal Australian Air Force Base.


The following week it was revealed the Department of Environment was investigating waste giant Cleanaway after PFAS was found in ground and surface water at and around its site at New Chum, including Six Mile Creek.

When the QT asked the department if there were other sites in Ipswich that were also being investigated for PFAS contamination, we were sent to a page on the State Government website which listed waterways that had previously been investigated.

Six Mile Creek was not listed and it is not known if there are other areas that have not been included.

"The levels of PFAS were below national recreational use guideline values. Groundwater and surface water in the area is not known to be used for drinking," a Department of Environment spokesperson said.

It is understood water from Six Mile Creek is used for irrigation at a community garden at Riverview, where vegetables are grown for consumption.

The State Government has also maintained: "The effects of exposure to PFAS to human health are currently unknown, but the potential for adverse health effects cannot be excluded."

Other countries, including Germany and the United States, have published information linking PFAS to testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disease and preeclampsia, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure during pregnancy and the weight of newborns.

When Cleanaway applied to extend its operation at New Chum, the Department of State Development requested further information about how the company would contain PFAS at its landfill site.

The correspondence is recorded on Ipswich City Council's Planning and Development online system.

Cleanaway provided a report in response to the department, which satisfied the department's concerns, but the full report has not been made available to the public.

Ipswich Residents Against Toxic Environments secretary Geoff Yarham has asked the department to provide a copy of the report.

"These documents were submitted by the applicant in response to the department's further advice notices," the department responded.

Mr Yarham said he'd been told twice to make RTI applications to access information, which he believes should be readily available to the public.

"It's a public health issue and the State Government appears very reticent to let any one know about it," he said.

"The reason for that is, it's hard to fix."

Freedom of information processes can often take months to complete and can sometimes cost the applicant tens of thousands of dollars.

Once the information is released, it is often heavily redacted.

The information that is technically available is often difficult to access and out of reach for most members of the public.