The Inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases members listen to submissions in Oakey in August 2018.
The Inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases members listen to submissions in Oakey in August 2018. Contributed

Inquiry calls on Govt to compensate PFAS-impacted residents

A COORDINATOR General should be appointed to take over the Federal Government's response to PFAS contamination and landowners in contaminated areas should be compensated for lost real estate value, a report into the government's response to the contamination scandal has recommended.

The Inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases handed down its report this afternoon.

"This report contains significant recommendations with a focus on improving the Government's response to this issue, particularly in relation to the concerns of the affected communities," chair Andrew Lamming said.

"The Committee has recommended that a Coordinator-General be appointed with the authority and resources necessary to more effectively coordinate the whole of Commonwealth Government effort in respect of PFAS contamination and to ensure a clear and consistent approach to community consultations and to cooperation with state, territory and local governments.

"The Committee has made recommendations to improve the voluntary blood testing program as a source of longitudinal information on the long term health effects of PFAS exposure and the effectiveness of measures to break PFAS exposure pathways.

"In many instances, property owners in PFAS contaminated areas have suffered demonstrable and quantifiable financial losses and the Committee has recommended compensation."

Mr Lamming said he paid tribute to the members of PFAS-affected communities.

"This issue has driven many otherwise ordinary citizens to organise, conduct research and develop significant expertise in an effort to be heard," he said.

"It should not take years of campaigning at this level of effort to adequately address the legitimate concerns of communities of people.

"The hearings at Katherine, Williamtown and Oakey were remarkable for the intensity of the emotion that could not be masked. These communities are hurt and angered by the effects PFAS contamination, and the delays and inadequacies in the response to its discovery, have had on their lives, their families and their communities."

Dianne Priddle and Jennifer Spencer after the PFAS Inquiry: Dianne Priddle and Jennifer Spencer explain what it was like telling their stories to the PFAS inquiry in Oakey.
Dianne Priddle and Jennifer Spencer after the PFAS Inquiry: Dianne Priddle and Jennifer Spencer explain what it was like telling their stories to the PFAS inquiry in Oakey.

Recommendations:

1. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government appoint a Coordinator-General to coordinate the national response to the PFAS contamination issue, supported by an appropriately resourced office.

2. The Committee recommends that the Government continue to upscale its investment in the containment of PFAS contamination plumes, and the remediation of contaminated land and water sources.

3. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government review its existing advice in relation to the human health effects of PFAS exposure, including to acknowledge the potential links to certain medical conditions

4. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, as soon as possible, undertake measures to improve participation in the voluntary blood testing program for PFAS

5. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government assist property owners and businesses in affected areas for demonstrated, quantifiable financial losses associated with PFAS contamination that has emanated from Defence bases. Priority for compensation, including the possibility of buy backs, should in the first instance be given to the most seriously affected residents

6. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government make available free, individualised case management and financial counselling services to those affected by PFAS contamination.

7. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government implement legislation and policies to: ban nationally the use of, contain, and ultimately safely destroy, long chain PFAS-based firefighting foams (including those containing PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS); place appropriate restrictions on the non-essential use of shorter chain PFAS-based foams; and continue to encourage the use of PFAS-free alternatives wherever possible.

8. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government urgently ratify the listing of PFOS under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

9. The Committee recommends that the Australian Government initiate an independent review of environmental regulation of Commonwealth land.