Current issues

CFA regional training centres


Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is coordinating an investigation into potential environmental contamination resulting from firefighting chemicals used in the past by CFA at its regional training centres across Victoria.

EPA established a working group from across government to oversee testing of the waterways, drains and groundwater that could be affected by contamination, particularly focusing beyond the boundary of training facilities.

EPA advises that further offsite testing and investigation has been undertaken, confirming that reticulated (mains) drinking water supplies in surrounding communities are safe to drink and the CFA training centres are safe to operate. The risk to people’s health and the environment from any contamination is very low and work is continuing to develop and maintain best-practice management controls at each site.

CFA regional training centres

Map of CFA regional training centres in Victoria

Latest update for each site: Penshurst | Bangholme | Wangaratta | Huntly | Fulham | Longerenong

All local water authorities and key stakeholders, including neighbours and local reference groups established for each site, have been briefed on the environmental assessments completed to date and are satisfied with the management controls in place.

EPA will also ensure the community is kept well informed about the testing regime and results, and people are welcome to call the EPA hotline on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or visit our website for further information. The website will be updated regularly as testing progresses.

Background to the investigation

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) is the key contaminant being investigated. PFOS was a common ingredient of some firefighting foams in the past but has not been used by CFA since 2007. PFOS and the related chemical PFOA are types of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS); these have previously been referred to as PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals).

Environmental assessments have been done at six of CFA’s regional training centres across Victoria. These are at:

  • Penshurst
  • Wangaratta
  • Longerenong (Horsham)
  • Huntly (Bendigo)
  • Fulham (Sale)
  • Bangholme (Dandenong/Carrum).

Site visits and environmental assessments have been undertaken by EPA and CFA at all locations.

As is standard practice, EPA issued CFA clean up notices for all six locations to provide transparency and formalise CFA’s requirements, timelines and reporting expectations. CFA completed all work required under these notices for the Wangaratta, Longerenong, Huntly, Fulham and Bangholme sites.

The CFA Penshurst site continues to be managed through a clean up notice issued in September 2015.

Updates for the RTC sites

To get the latest news on any of the sites, subscribe to our email updates.

Penshurst

  • The town drinking water supply is from a deep groundwater aquifer. Wannon Water has tested the drinking water and confirmed that no PFAS are present and the water is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts, EPA authorised officers, contaminated site specialists and an independent, EPA-appointed environmental auditor have conducted a number of site inspections and assessments of the Penshurst RTC.
  • To date, testing of groundwater near the site has shown five bores that are contaminated with PFOS. CFA and EPA are working with landowners to ensure any potential risks are known and managed.
  • A short-term environmental audit has been completed for the site. This audit has further delineated offsite surface water and groundwater contamination, and confirmed no current significant health risks.
  • CFA is already implementing recommendations of the report for ongoing management controls, which include providing alternative water supplies to properties with impacted groundwater bores.
  • CFA and the auditor have provided full briefings to neighbours and the local reference group, which includes representatives from the community and key agencies such as local water corporations and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • A cleanup plan developed by CFA has been reviewed and approved by EPA. The plan formalises existing actions, as well as implementation of audit recommendations. This will be a dynamic plan to ensure it continually includes the latest information and recommendations from further testing and the long-term environmental audit.
  • A longer-term environmental audit is in progress. This audit includes further investigations to fully delineate the extent of contamination and will identify any future long-term management controls or cleanup measures that may be needed. The audit report is due by 30 June 2017.
  • CFA has notified EPA of an offsite discharge that occurred from its fire training wastewater dam to a roadside culvert as a result of rainfall. Wastewater did not discharge to private properties. This event has not increased the risk posed by the site to the local community. Read the minor works pollution abatement notice (MWPAN) (PDF 72KB) EPA issued.
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Penshurst (PDF 94KB).

Bangholme

  • The drinking water supply in the area has not been affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Bangholme RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • We do not expect nearby facilities, such as the Eastern Treatment Plant, to be affected by contamination from the Bangholme site. Recycled water supplies from the Eastern Treatment Plant are safe to use.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • CFA has completed and submitted to EPA an extensive environmental management plan and an environmental site assessment for the Bangholme RTC.
  • EPA has requested that CFA review the findings of environmental site assessments in light of the recently released draft ANZECC PFOS and PFOA standards. See the question below, ‘How do we decide if levels of PFAS are safe?’
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Bangholme (PDF 195KB) to further progress management and cleanup.

Wangaratta

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • Testing of groundwater near the site has been conducted. A very low level of PFOS contamination has been detected in an observation bore near the site, but not near homes. This bore is not currently in use. Current testing has not identified any further offsite groundwater contamination.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Wangaratta RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way. Surface water in Three Mile Creek was tested and no contaminants were detected.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • CFA has completed and submitted to EPA an extensive environmental management plan and an environmental site assessment for the Wangaratta RTC.
  • EPA has requested that CFA review the findings of environmental site assessments in light of the recently released draft ANZECC PFOS and PFOA standards. See the question below, ‘How do we decide if levels of PFAS are safe?’
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Wangaratta South (PDF 197KB) to further progress management and cleanup.

Huntly

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Huntly RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • CFA has completed and submitted to EPA an extensive environmental management plan and an environmental site assessment for the Huntly RTC.
  • EPA has requested that CFA review the findings of environmental site assessments in light of the recently released draft ANZECC PFOS and PFOA standards. See the question below, ‘How do we decide if levels of PFAS are safe?’
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Huntly (PDF 192KB) to further progress management and cleanup.

Fulham (West Sale)

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Fulham (West Sale) RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • CFA has completed and submitted to EPA an extensive environmental management plan and an environmental site assessment for the Fulham RTC.
  • EPA has requested that CFA review the findings of environmental site assessments in light of the recently released draft ANZECC PFOS and PFOA standards. See the question below, ‘How do we decide if levels of PFAS are safe?’
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Fulham (West Sale) (PDF 201KB) to further progress management and cleanup.

Longerenong

  • Water corporations have tested drinking water for surrounding areas. It is not affected and is safe to drink.
  • CFA technical experts and EPA authorised officers have conducted a site inspection of the Longerenong RTC.
  • A program of testing of surface water, drainage lines and groundwater near the site is under way.
  • Current testing has not identified any offsite contamination.
  • A fire training water management plan is in place at the site, which includes improved stormwater management.
  • CFA has completed and submitted to EPA an extensive environmental management plan and an environmental site assessment for the Longerenong RTC.
  • EPA has requested that CFA review the findings of environmental site assessments in light of the recently released draft ANZECC PFOS and PFOA standards. See the question below, ‘How do we decide if levels of PFAS are safe?’
  • Read the clean up notice issued to CFA for Longerenong (PDF 192KB) to further progress management and cleanup.

Clean up notices for Penshurst, Wangaratta, Longerenong, Huntly, Fulham and Bangholme

A clean up notice is a written statutory direction that requires, by law, that a notice recipient undertake works or activities as detailed in the notice. Remedial notices are served to prevent or remedy a range of non-compliances or likely non-compliances. Remedial notices are not punitive measures like EPA sanctioning tools (such as a licence suspension or prosecution).

Each clean up notices is based on EPA inspection of the site and a targeted environmental site assessment containing test results prepared by an environmental consultancy. It requires practical actions and timelines for further assessment, management, and reporting of any contamination.

If you have any questions about the notice, please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC). Huntly latest update Longerenong latest update Penshurst latest update Fiskville latest update Bangholme latest update Fulham latest update Wangaratta latest update Huntly latest update Longerenong latest update CFA Fiskville investigation Penshurst latest update Bangholme latest update Fulham latest update Wangaratta latest update

 

Q and A on CFA regional training centre testing + Expand all Collapse all

  • Why is EPA overseeing testing at the CFA regional training centres? What is the concern?

    EPA is investigating potential contamination resulting from firefighting chemicals used in the past by CFA at its six regional training centres (RTCs) across Victoria.

    There are concerns that the contamination may have extended beyond the boundary of the training centres and affected nearby waterways, drains and groundwater.

    This work was launched after CFA informed EPA that testing it had been undertaking at the regional centres showed elevated levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) in groundwater at the Penshurst site. Since the initial notification, the group of chemicals knows as PFCs have been renamed PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) – see the question ‘What are the contaminants?’ below for more information.

    To ensure transparency and independent oversight, EPA has issued a statutory clean up notice (CUN) on each site. A CUN is issued under section 61A of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

  • What is being done to address the concerns?

    EPA – in conjunction with CFA, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) and relevant water corporations – is working to better understand the potential risks posed to human health, livestock and the environment at each of CFA’s six training centres.

  • Is drinking water safe in the areas around these sites?

    Yes. Relevant water corporations have assessed reticulated drinking water supplies in and around the CFA’s six sites and all drinking water has been confirmed safe to drink.

  • What are the contaminants?

    They are perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are manmade chemicals that have been used in a range of industrial and consumer products since the 1950s. Until recently, this group of chemicals was known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).

    Most people come into contact with PFAS through eating food and drinking water containing PFAS; and through the use of products like cosmetics, shaving cream, water-repellent sprays and nonstick cookware.

    Until recently, two types of PFAS – PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) – were commonly added to some firefighting foams to improve the foam’s ability to smother fires. They were also used to suppress mists in various industrial processes.

    Due to their wide use and persistence in the environment, PFAS can be found in soils, surface water and groundwater in most urban areas, at low-level concentrations. However, where larger quantities of PFAS have been released into the environment, concentrations may be elevated and can pose a risk to human and environmental health.

  • How do we decide if levels of PFAS are safe?

    There are currently no formally established Australian standards for the protection of human health. However, in June 2016, the Standing Committee on Environmental Health (enHealth) released interim national guidance on human health reference values for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances for use in site investigations in Australia. See the enHealth website for more information.

    The Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality were published in 2000 and are currently under review. Draft standards for PFOS and PFOA have been fast-tracked as part of this review. The following standards are taken from the revision that won’t be released until mid-2017, although their immediate use in Victoria is encouraged.

    These draft standards can only be applied to the protection of aquatic ecosystems. They should not be used to assess water for human drinking or primary-contact recreation (such as swimming) or be applied to human health or soil assessments.

    See this guideline, Incoming water standards for aquatic ecosystem protection: PFOS and PFOA (publication 1633), on our website.

    Levels of protection PFOS (freshwater) toxicity guideline value (μ/L) PFOA (freshwater) toxicity guideline value (&mug/L)
    Reliability Very high Low
    High conservation value systems (99% species protection) 0.00023 19
    Slightly to moderately disturbed systems (95% species protection) 0.13 220
    Highly disturbed systems
    (90% species protection)
    (80% species protection)

    2.0
    31

    632
    1824

    When Australian standards are not available, EPA refers to international standards such as the US EPA standards.

  • Where are CFA’s training centres located?

    The centres are located at Penshurst, Wangaratta, Longerenong (Horsham), Huntly (Bendigo), Fulham (Sale) and Bangholme (Dandenong/Carrum).

  • What sort of regulatory action is EPA taking?

    EPA, as the environmental regulator, has issued CFA statutory notices requiring further investigation and appropriate remediation and management of each of its regional training centres.

  • Has any contamination been detected outside the centres?

    Yes. At Penshurst, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) contamination levels above drinking water criteria have been detected in four stock and domestic bores in the Penshurst area. CFA and EPA staff have visited these households and discussed alternative water supplies and health checks with the residents.

    Also, PFOS contamination at levels above drinking water criteria have been detected in an observation bore 500 m north of the Wangaratta training centre. This bore is not currently in use and results will inform further works by CFA.

  • What about other users of PFAS?

    EPA is also working with other agencies and jurisdictions, including the Department of Defence and airports, to understand other potential risks of contamination from these firefighting foams.

    The Victorian Government is aware that the Department of Defence actively assesses, tracks and manages contamination at its sites. In Victoria, the Department of Defence (DoD) is currently conducting detailed environmental investigations at the RAAF Base East Sale. In addition, DoD has commenced a preliminary sampling program at Bandiana Military Area and HMAS Cerberus.

Page last updated on 21 Oct 2016