MEDIA RELEASE ON BEHALF OF THE HEADS OF AUSTRALIA’S EPAS
The Australian Government and State and Territory EPAs are working together to tackle PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) by creating a National Environmental Management Plan to protect human health and the environment.
The plan will include the latest information about these long-lasting chemicals and their impact, and on how contaminated sites and waste should be treated.
PFAS are manufactured chemicals that make products heat resistant, non-stick, water repellent, and weather and stain resistant.
Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria’s Executive Director Assessments, Tim Eaton, said PFAS chemicals have been used for decades in a range of products, including pesticides, stain repellents and fire-fighting foams.
“PFAS compounds have had a wide range of uses because they resist heat, chemical and biological degradation, and are very stable,” Mr Eaton said.
“There is now growing concern worldwide about the effects of PFAS on our health and on animals and plants, because of that chemical stability and the fact that they easily enter the environment, moving into soil, creeks, rivers and lakes. We know there are sites with PFAS contamination, so we are working collectively to manage them,” he said.
In April 2017, government and environment agency staff met with national and international environmental regulation experts at a PFAS Summit in Melbourne convened by the Heads of all Australian EPAs. Regulatory experts shared the latest information about PFAS contamination, where it occurs and its possible impacts, and talked about the steps being taken to manage the chemicals. There was agreement that a collaborative, national approach to PFAS regulation is the best way forward.
The PFAS Summit led to the creation of a PFAS National Environmental Management Plan consultation draft. The plan describes PFAS compounds and their impacts, how to deal with and clean up contaminated sites, how best to treat contaminated soil and waste, and methods for safely destroying the chemicals.
“Once finalised, the plan will be a reference document to inform environmental regulation and a source of up-to-date information on the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and waste management,” Tim Eaton said.
The Heads of EPAs across Australia and New Zealand are leading development of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan to achieve clear, effective and coherent approaches to environmental regulation and management, and engaging with the community and industry is a vital part of development of the plan.
“We invite anyone working with PFAS, its disposal or contaminated sites, to examine the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan consultation draft, and offer their comments, opinions and insights,” Mr Eaton said.
The draft is available at www.epa.vic.gov.au/PFAS_NMP along with an online feedback form.