The Northern Territory Government says it is increasing the monitoring of Katherine water supplies to make sure they meet new national guidelines.
Katherine MP Sandra Nelson said the issue was complex, but that the new Commonwealth guidelines saw the acceptable levels of PFOS in water drop from 0.5 micrograms per litre (µ/L) to 0.07 µ/L.
Given the fears over the issue, the Katherine Times provides the full and unedited media statement provided by the Government last night.
“It is important for residents to understand these federal changes and know they can have confidence in their water supply,” Ms Nelson said.
“As the Health Minister said on Monday, current research is inconclusive and it’s not known if exposure to PFAS causes any significant health problems in people, but the potential for adverse health effects can’t be ignored and I know Katherine residents are concerned about the fact that chemicals have leached through parts of the region around the Tindal RAAF base
“I have spoken with the health and environment experts and it was reassuring to hear that Katherine water – which is a mix of river and bore water - is within acceptable levels other than for a few days each year.
“A plan will need to be developed for those days when river water is not suitable for use and we have to place a greater reliance on bore water where PFAS has been detected.”
“The Department of Primary Industry and Resources has assessed the land use against the current water testing results and the impacted area has little commercial horticulture or cattle production.”
Ms Nelson said PFAS laden fire-fighting foams were used widely at the Tindal RAAF base.
Those chemicals were used between 1998 and 2004.
“No-one knows exactly what PFAS chemicals means for our health and for our environment and there is no unequivocal evidence to show the impacts when consumed over a lifetime – so we must take precautions which is what the latest Commonwealth guidelines are all about.
“I welcome the Commonwealth introducing some of the most conservative guidelines in the world - it escalates monitoring of PFAS and helps to highlight the work that is needed in communities like ours.
“The Northern Territory Government has listened to locals concerns and is lobbying Defence to:
· fast-track the sampling of more ground water bores for residents between RAAF base Tindal and the Katherine township.
· provide voluntary blood testing to concerned locals
· include Territorians at affected sites in the national epidemiological study
· give Territorians at affected sites access to counselling services being offered to residents around RAAF Base Williamstown in NSW and the Army Aviation Centre at Oakey in Queensland
· develop a plan for those days each year that town water has a greater reliance on bore water
“The Territory Government believes Katherine residents are entitled to control over their lives and access to high quality services.
“The Department of Health has instructed Power and Water to increase the monitoring of PFAS levels in Katherine.
“I am looking forward to the public meeting being held by Defence in Katherine next week and would encourage all residents to get involved.
“The Chief Minister and members of Government will also travel to Katherine later this month to hold a caucus meeting.”