Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has conducted a preliminary risk assessment of data provided by Melbourne Airport about levels of PFAS at the airport and in surrounding waterways including Arundel Creek, Steele Creek, Deep Creek, Jackson Creek and Maribyrnong RIver.
As a precautionary measure EPA recommends anglers don’t fish in the Maribyrnong River upstream of the Calder Freeway to Deep Creek at Bulla and within all of Arundel Creek at this stage.
Based on the initial risk assessment, EPA also recommends, again as a precaution, people avoid swimming in the water and keep pets away from these waterways while additional testing is conducted.
The precautionary advice does not apply to Jacksons Creek and Steele Creek. Normal drinking water supplies are not affected
EPA is organising a multi-agency working group including Melbourne Water, Southern Rural Water, DHHS, Agriculture Victoria, Victorian Fisheries Authority, DELWP and relevant Councils to conduct testing of water, soil, plant and aquatic life to better understand any public risks that exist in the waterways.
Results from these tests will be made available to the local community as soon as possible.
EPA is also contacting 39 Melbourne Water diversion licence holders with advice to cease using water sourced from the Maribyrnong River as a precautionary measure. While the assessment indicates the use of Maribyrnong River water for irrigation purposes is low risk, further testing will be needed to confirm.
Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals which have historically been used in firefighting foams and other industrial and consumer products. The two most well-known PFAS are PFOS (perfluorooctane sulphonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). These two chemicals have been manufactured and used since the mid-20th century.
For more information about PFAS go to https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/your-environment/land-and-groundwater/pfas-in-victoria
The Australian Government’s Expert Health Panel for PFAS Report 2018 found that there is no consistent evidence that PFAS are harmful to human health, or cause any specific illnesses such as cancer, even in the case of highly exposed occupational populations. Possible links between PFOS and PFOA exposure and several health effects have been reported in epidemiological studies around the world. However, many of these findings have been inconsistent, with some studies identifying health effects and others finding none.
Until there is definitive scientific indication, EPA has adopted a consistent and proactive position to limit contact and consumption where PFAS levels are above human health guidelines.
Both Melbourne Airport and Airservices Australia have been conducting investigations for PFAS within the airport grounds and surrounds.
EPA's jurisdiction at Melbourne Airport is limited.