The Northern Territory Department of Health has this morning issued a “fact sheet” for the consumption of water in Katherine.
The department recently confirmed contamination, believed to be linked to chemicals uses in firefighting foam at the Tindal RAAF Base up until 2004, has been found in the town’s water supplies.
The NT Department of Health and key agencies are working in partnership with the Department of Defence to determine the impact of PFAS in the environment and drinking water supplies.
“We are advised by the Department of Defence they are continuing testing of private bore water supplies in the Katherine region surrounding RAAF base Tindal which will form part of their 12 month study,l” the department said today.
“In the interim the NT Department of Health advises that residents using private bores in the vicinity of RAAF base Tindal to contact Defence to discuss the need for an alternative supply.”
Katherine Times understands at least five Tindal “neighbours” have already sought alternate supplies.
The department’s “fact sheet” follows:
Per- and poly- fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) in the Katherine Region
Per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl (PFAS) substances are a group of emerging contaminants which have been the subject to contaminated site investigations across Australia.
PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of non-stick cookware; fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; floor polishing; shampoos; coatings and coating additives; denture cleansers; some industrial processes; and in some types of fire-fighting foams.
As part of a Northern Territory investigation, the NT Department of Health and NT Environment Protection Authority have been seeking to determine the presence of PFAS in the environment and in drinking water supplies.
The Department of Health has adopted the national interim Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) drinking water quality guideline values for the most common PFAS substances used in fire fighting foams: 0.5 micrograms per litre (ug/L) for PFOS/PFHxS and 5 micrograms per litre for PFOA.
Katherine Public Drinking Water Supply
Power and Water Corporation has been requested by the Department of Health to extend its annual drinking water quality monitoring program within urban centres to include analysis for PFAS chemicals.
Initial water test results from Power and Water has revealed the presence of low levels of PFAS in Katherine’s production bores which are below the interim drinking water quality guideline value. There were no detectable levels of PFAS in Katherine river water which makes up the bulk of the Katherine public drinking water supply, so water can continue to be safely consumed.
The Department of Health is awaiting a full analysis of test results on Katherine’s drinking water from Power and Water which is expected within the coming weeks.
Katherine Rural Area – Private Bore Supplies
The Department of Defence has conducted initial tests on a number of private bore water supplies in the Katherine rural area in the vicinity of RAAF Base Tindal and has recently released a preliminary report, with a more extensive study to be conducted over the next 12 months.
At this time the NT Department of Health is recommending people with private bores call the Department of Defence National Hotline on 1800 365 414 (business hours), to discuss the need for alternative water provision. In the interim and as an additional precaution people in this region, in particular pregnant women are advised to consume bottled water, until alternative drinking water can be provided.