PFAS residue to be dumped at RAAF Base

WATER FIX: PFAS has been successfully removed from bore water at Katherine's water treatment plant.
WATER FIX: PFAS has been successfully removed from bore water at Katherine's water treatment plant.

PFAS residue removed from the town’s bore water will be stored at the Tindal RAAF Base.

The Department of Defence said up to 30 drums of waste will be stored at the base over the next year.

“It is intended that this waste will be regenerated which will reduce the waste to less than one drum,” a department spokesman said.

“This will be stored by Defence until a long-term solution can be identified.”

This waste is produced by the new water treatment plant add-on which is successfully removing the PFAS from bore water.

As well, 10 square metres of PFAS waste from the Katherine swimming pool will be stored alongside the drums at the base.

Ten square metres of the PFAS waste is about 10,000 litres, enough to fill a large skip bin or 42 large wheelie bins.

Also today, Katherine’s well regarded GP, Dr P.J. Spafford, told the ABC the Government needed to do more to provide information about PFAS contamination to the health professionals who were treating residents.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles said: “I have heard the concerns from a Katherine GP and have asked the Department to review how information is being made available and see what improvements can be made in this space.

“I would encourage any GP’s who feel they need more information to contact the Department of Health’s Chief Health Officer.”

The Katherine Times has been investigating the creation of a PFAS storage dump at Tindal for the past month.

PFAS has leaked into groundwater from the use of firefighting foams once used at the base.

More than a million litres of contaminated water from the Katherine pool was pumped into sewers for disposal at the town’s sewerage lagoons.

The PFAS dump is to be housed inside shipping containers in a remote part of the large base.

TOXIC DUMP: A remote section of the sprawling RAAF Base at Tindal is to be used to be the repository of the concentrated PFAS waste. Picture: Defence Media.

TOXIC DUMP: A remote section of the sprawling RAAF Base at Tindal is to be used to be the repository of the concentrated PFAS waste. Picture: Defence Media.

The NT’s Environment Protection Authority has been contacted for comment on the licensing arrangements for the new dump.

“The facility that the PFAS waste is stored at is on Commonwealth land and therefore the NT EPA does not have jurisdictional control or oversight in this regard,” an EPA spokesman said today.  

“Defence continues to work with industry both within Australia and around the world to identify destructive methodologies for PFAS,” the defence spokesman said.

“The waste stream from the new water treatment plant is minimal.”

During the remediation process from the contaminated YMCA pool, Defence expects to remove approximately 10m3 of contaminated waste from the Katherine pool while it is closed.

“As an interim measure, any waste will be stored securely at RAAF Base Tindal until appropriate management or disposal is complete.

“Defence continues to work with industry and Northern Territory Government agencies to confirm the most appropriate treatment and disposal options for management of PFAS contaminated waste.”

A draft PFAS national environmental management plan, which also includes the NT EPA, has been released for public comment.

The PFAS National Environmental Management Plan aims to provide governments with a consistent, practical, risk-based framework for the environmental regulation of PFAS-contaminated materials and sites.

The PFAS NEMP is expected to be a reference on the state of knowledge related to the environmental regulation of PFAS.

The plan will also represent a how-to guide for the investigation and management of PFAS contamination and waste management, including best practice approaches, which will be called upon to inform actions by EPAs.

“In the short-term, containment of the source should focus on reducing risks to receptors. This may include capping or covering or may require more significantly engineered containment facilities. In the medium to long-term, the contained sources can be removed for destruction, particularly where ongoing containment presents unacceptable risks,” the plan’s discussion paper said.

“Site-based and, where appropriate, catchment-based assessments of ongoing containment and management actions should be undertaken. High temperature destruction of some types of PFAS waste, for example concentrated liquid waste and some solid wastes, is used overseas and represents a promising option.”

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