A map showing the expanded investigation area for PFAS around Amberley RAAF Base.
A map showing the expanded investigation area for PFAS around Amberley RAAF Base.

PFAS: Investigation reveals extent of chemical impact

THE known extent of contamination from harmful firefighting chemicals used on Amberley RAAF Base will be revealed this week.

On Thursday the Australian Defence Force will release a new report on its findings so far, with warnings for Ipswich residents to take caution against potential PFAS chemical exposure still in place.

The release of the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) report, detailing the known extent of contamination in the area and the potential ongoing risks to residents in PFAS affected areas, has been timed to coincide with a free community meeting.

The meeting will take place on Thursday afternoon with an evening presentation. (See full details below)

People living in the suburb of Leichhardt, known as the Heritage Links residential area, have already been advised their homes are now included in the expanded investigation area.

That area was expanded in March 2019 after it was identified part of Leichhardt was built on a former golf course, likely irrigated with water from the Bremer River and therefore potentially impacted by PFAS contamination.

Leichhardt residents will not find out the extent of potential impact from PFAS this week, with Defence yet to finish assessing risks in the expanded investigation area.

PFAS, per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances, are potentially damaging to humans.


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The chemicals do not break down and can accumulate in animals, such as fish, which may then be consumed by animals higher in the food chain.

Health warnings advising people not to consume fish caught in the Bremer River and Warrill Creek downstream of the Cribb Park area are still in place.

On Thursday afternoon, the Defence Force will host a community at the Leichhardt One Mile Community Centre, detailing the findings of the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) report.

The meeting, and the report, will also cover the results of the investigation so far including the known nature and extent of PFAS contamination at RAAF Base Amberley, and nearby areas.

A Defence spokesperson said the report's findings had already been shared with the relevant Queensland Government authorities.

"The Queensland Government has not recommended further precautionary advice at this stage, however previous advice from April 2018 and March 2019 remains in place," the spokesperson said.

"The precautionary advice recommended by Queensland Health is that the community should not consume fish of any species caught in the Warrill Creek and Bremer River downstream to the Cribb Park area."

The investigation will now shift to focus on the potential risks to plants and animals that may have been exposed to the harmful chemicals.

This sign will be erected along the Bremer River and Warrill Creek, warning people not to eat fish caught in either waterway as testing has shown high levels of PFAS chemcials.
Signs were erected along the Bremer River and Warrill Creek last year, detailing warnings and possible health risks from PFAS contamination.

Potential risks for those living in the recently expanded investigation area in Leichhardt will also now be thoroughly assessed with the results to be added to the HHRA report when finished.

"The next steps for the environmental investigation are to complete an Ecological Risk Assessment, which will assess potential PFAS exposure risks for plants and animals, and an addendum to the Human Health Risk Assessment, which will assess PFAS exposure risks in the expanded part of the Investigation Area.

"The Investigation Area defines the current extent of the investigation, focussed on the potential human and environmental receptors that may be exposed to PFAS."

The environmental investigation for RAAF Amberley Base is slated for completion this year, with a detailed management plan to be released in the final quarter of 2019.

This management and clean-up plan, called the PFAS Management Area Plan, will be unique to the base.

"At the end of the investigation, Defence will use the findings to develop a PFAS Management Area Plan (PMAP) tailored to the unique conditions of the site," the Defence spokesperson said.

"The aim of the PMAP is to provide options to manage the risks of PFAS exposure on and near RAAF Base Amberley and outline a plan for ongoing monitoring.

"The best management and remediation options for a particular site are determined by site-specific factors, including hydrogeology, soil configuration, and the extent of contamination and the nature of exposure pathways.

"The PMAP for RAAF Base Amberley is expected to be finalised and released to the community in the last quarter of 2019."

Last year, soil testing confirmed dangerous levels of PFAS had been found in rivers, creeks, soil and dust surrounding RAAF Base Amberley.


The meeting

  • Where: Leichhardt One Mile Community Centre, 1-17 Denman Street, Leichhardt

(access via Toongarra Road and then McNamara Street)

  • When: Thursday August 29, 3pm to 7pm (visit any time). Presentation will commence at 5:30pm
  • RSVP: 1800 817 751, amberley@ch2m.com