KATHERINE’S town water is contaminated with chemicals as well.
The NT Department of Health dropped the bombshell this morning, the day after the Department of Defence said it had found worrying contamination levels in a bore and surface water surrounding the Tindal RAAF base.
The NT Government this morning revealed it had conducted testing of Katherine’s town water, independent of the Tindal tests.
Those tests found low levels of PFAs in the Katherine groundwater.
Health experts say the contamination levels are considered “a low risk”.
Katherine’s water comprises 10-20 per cent of groundwater, a Power and Water Corporation spokeswoman said.
The rest comes from the Katherine River.
PFAS are the same per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances found in the Tindal tests.
Firefighting foam used on the RAAF base, and by civilian authorities, have been blamed for the chemical being in the Katherine water.
The now banned foam was used at Tindal between 1988 and 2005.
The fact the chemicals are still detectable in local groundwater, a decade after they stopped using the firefighting foam, is worrying many local people.
NT Environmental Health director Xavier Schobben today said early results have been received for Katherine water supply and indicate there are low levels of PFAS in ground water.
“These results are within the acceptable range of the current interim Australian guidelines. Finalised results are expected within the coming weeks,” Mr Schobben said.
He said PFAS were a diverse group of compounds resistant to heat, water, and oil.
“For decades, they have been used in hundreds of industrial applications and consumer products such as carpeting, apparels, upholstery, food paper wrappings, fire-fighting foams and metal plating.
“PFAS have been found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood samples of the general U.S. population.
“The department has also strongly encouraged the Defence Department to continue with extensive testing without delay,” he said.
The Defence Department yesterday said it would begin extensive testing of the Tindal area early next year.
The full results are not expected to be known for a year.
“The University of Queensland is currently undertaking a study to consider the wider impact of PFAS in the environment,” Mr Schobben said.
“When available, we will extrapolate their findings and determine any impact. At this stage it is still considered a low risk.”
Food Standards Australia New Zealand are developing health based guidelines for PFAS in food.
Interim advice should be available by the end 2016.
“We are anticipating the NT PFAS Interagency working group, including Defence, will meet as a matter of urgency.”