Nine hundred foam users in Australia to be surveyed about fire-fighting foam

Published:  16 February, 2017

Queensland Governments extends efforts to remove contamination-causing per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the state.

The Environment Minister of Australia’s Queensland Government has initiated a survey to identify any remaining users of fire-fighting foam containing PFAS.

Minister Steven Miles said the survey would build on the work undertaken last year when the Environment and Heritage Protection engaged with the major industries and facilities in Queensland which historically had been primary users of the foams.

“The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) will now broaden its engagement with industry by conducting this survey across activities that are likely to hold stocks of fire-fighting foam on-site,” he said.

Dr Miles said EHP will survey some 900 operators via email or post to identify what entities have stocks of foam, the quantities and type of foam and the storage methods on various sites.

“I urge Queensland's commerce and industry representatives to participate as this will greatly assist us in determining the right priorities and approaches to continue managing this issue,” he said.

“This survey is part of the government’s ongoing response to the issue of PFAS contamination, and parallels the Federal Government’s management of historical PFAS fire-fighting foam use at defence and civilian airports and surrounding environments.

“In July last year we introduced a policy to ban new stocks of fire-fighting foam that may contain PFAS and have informed commerce and industry that any existing stocks must be withdrawn as soon as possible.

“As part of our ongoing response to the issues, we are also actively reviewing the locations and scale of fire-fighting foams throughout Queensland that may contain PFAS and engaging with commerce and industry to ensure they know and understand their obligations,” he said.

Dr Miles said the Federal Government had ultimate responsibility for PFAS contamination at defence sites and civilian airports, and also off-site where contamination is likely to have extended beyond site boundaries.

“It is our expectation that as the work progresses, the Federal Government will honour its responsibility and undertake any remedial action that is required,” he said.

A seminar on the implementation of Queensland’s Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam Policy is taking place in Brisbane 21-23 February 2017.

The seminar aims to provide guidance for operators transitioning from older foam formulations to best-practice modern AFFFs or fluorine-free products; and also those needing to establish and verify their current foam risk profile and status or the challenges of legacy site contamination by fluorinated organics of soils and groundwater.

Situated in the north-east of the country, Queensland is the second-largest state in Australia and is home to six World Heritage-listed preservation areas including the Great Barrier Reef. The state has a large coal, mineral and gas resource base with a modest scale chemical industry.

Photo: Shutterstock.

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