Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is aware that PFAS has been detected in onsite groundwater bores, a dam and nearby drainage lines at Esso’s Longford gas plant.
PFAS is a group of chemicals that has been widely used in a range of industrial and consumer products both in Australia and internationally, including in fire retardants, water proofing, food preparation, food packaging, furnishings, clothing and recreational equipment.
While there is currently no consistent evidence that PFAS are harmful to human health, many jurisdictions are phasing out their use.
EPA Gippsland Manager Stephen Lansdell said that as part of EPA’s major industry assessment program, the company’s monitoring reports were analysed and showed PFAS had been detected in onsite groundwater bores.
“Esso is now undertaking an environmental site assessment to investigate PFAS contamination on and around its Longford site in accordance with a remedial notice issued by EPA in July 2016,” Mr Lansdell said.
“While the site assessment is due to be completed by 19 May 2017, initial testing has detected PFAS contamination above environmental screening guideline values and recreational guidelines in a neighbouring farm dam and drainage lines.”
A further notice had also been issued to Esso that requires appropriate short-term controls, assessment and reporting regarding water and livestock use within a 1km radius of any PFAS detection.
Mr Lansdell said that the dam where PFAS had been detected was on a property owned and leased out by Esso and was used for stock water only and not for domestic purposes.
“Esso has confirmed, following conversations with its tenants, that there is no public access to the dam or the drainage lines. Water corporations, Southern Rural Water and Gippsland Water, have advised public drinking water supplies in the area are safe,” Mr Lansdell said.
Esso has also completed a preliminary assessment of the presence of groundwater bores within 1.5km downstream of areas where there was significant use of firefighting foam; EPA requires further information from ESSO in this regard.
Mr Lansdell said Esso was in the process of contacting neighbouring farmers with respect to the initial test results and would share future test results as they become available.
“Esso has communicated this to relevant Victorian government agencies including the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources and the Department of Health and Human Services, and the relevant water corporations,” Mr Lansdell said.
“Esso will continue to work with these agencies, the local community and neighbours to ensure public water supplies are safe and current and future risk management controls are appropriate.”
Mr Lansdell said EPA understood Esso was planning community information sessions in later April and May as more information becomes available.
"EPA is also helping to coordinate Government advice and oversight of this issue and will continue to support Esso's community engagement,” Mr Lansdell said.
Community members are encouraged to report any pollution to EPA's pollution hotline 1300 EPA VIC, or to contact Esso directly for more details on its investigation and community engagement sessions.
Per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS).
As they have heat, water and stain repelling properties, PFAS have been widely used in a range of industrial and consumer products both in Australia and internationally, including in fire retardants, water proofing, food preparation, food packaging, furnishings, clothing and recreational equipment.
While health effects from PFAS have not been confirmed, many jurisdictions are phasing out their use. EPA Victoria has committed to taking a lead in the national approach in establishing an environmental management framework for PFAS.