KATHERINE residents may be asked to give samples of their blood in case their bodies are contaminated with chemicals.
A “human health assessment” of the town is one possible outcome of the Department of Defence’s year-long study of the PFAs chemicals which have escaped from the RAAF Base at Tindal.
The department has begun a major investigation into how far the contamination from the base has spread after NT Government discovered traces of the chemicals in the town’s water supply late last year.
Two public meetings will be held in Katherine on Thursday, March 23 to kickstart the study.
First the study wants to “assess the possible human health risks associated with exposure to PFAS impacted soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment and biota (plants and animals)”.
The department has already told residents chemicals could continue leaking into Katherine’s water supply for a century.
A preliminary study found the chemicals, called PFAS, have leached from the Tindal RAAF Base into groundwater.
The chemicals were contained in firefighting foams used at Tindal between 1988 to 2004.
More than 50 neighbouring homes are already being supplied with emergency water supplies from the department.
Even if people stopped drinking the contaminated water it could take four to eight years to pass out of their bodies, residents were told late last year.
“The best science indicated there is no consistent evidence even high concentrations of the chemicals cause any negative health impacts,” a department spokesman said in a meeting in Katherine.
“But as a precaution, human exposure should be minimised,” he said.
A department spokesman said a decision to conduct a “human health risk assessment “ which would involved the taking of blood, plus an ecological risk assessment would be “based on the results of the detailed environmental investigation and at the recommendation of the specialist environmental consultant undertaking the investigation”.
The Federal Government, led by the Department of Health, has already established a Voluntary Blood Testing Program for people that work or live, or have worked or lived, within the investigation areas at east coast base RAAF bases at Williamtown and Oakey.
“The extent of contamination at other sites, including Katherine, is still being determined,” a spokesman said.
The Katherine study may also include:
Identification of groups of people (receptors) who may be exposed to PFAS.
• Conduct of community surveys to identify potential ways people could be exposed to PFAS (exposure pathways).
• Risk characterisation by comparison of estimated PFAS intakes to acceptable levels.
had leached from the Tindal RAAF Base into groundwater.
The Katherine meetings will be held on March 23 at 2.30-4pm and 5.30-7pm at the Godinymayin Yyijard River Arts and Culture Centre.