SOME tough questions were put to the Department of Defence at the final community meeting on Katherine’s chemical contamination investigation last night.
Residents asked why it had taken the department “so long to get the water tested after we found out what was happening in Oakey and Williamtown”?
The department said there were 18 sites around Australia which need to undergo the same investigation, so it was a matter of resources.
One woman asked why the entire town of Katherine would not be supplied with bottled water as a precautionary measure, if studies had been “inconclusive” on whether or not PFAS was harmful to humans.
A spokesman from Power and Water assured the audience that the tap water in Katherine was safe to drink.
The spokesman said it is safe even at times of the year when the town drinks 100 per cent bore water, which sits about five times over the safe tolerable daily intake.
“It isn’t going to affect you really if you have 100 per cent bore water for a few hours or a few days,” the spokesman said.
PFAS is a family of chemicals which were contained in firefighting foams used in training at the base which have since leached into the groundwater.
Power and Water has found elevated levels of PFAS in the town’s sources of drinking water, notably the two bores used at the water treatment plant.
The neighbors of RAAF base Tindal who have been consuming contaminated bore water for years asked about the safety of growing their own food.
“I cannot give a definitive answer, the general advice is to reduce your consumption of the food you produce yourself,” lead defence spokesman Steve Grzeskowiak said.
“The first thing they should do is replace their drinking water, when it comes to the issue of food that problem is a little more difficult,” Federal deputy chief medical officer Tony Hobbs said.
“The general advice is to use safe water supply to feed your chickens and water crops.”
It was also revealed that there are ways to extract PFAS chemicals from water supplies.
“There are ways to get PFAS out of the water using reverse osmosis but it is very expensive,” a spokesman said.
The full investigation into the contaminated water is ongoing.