Katherine is set to mount Australia’s biggest legal case against the Department of Defence over chemical contamination.
More than 300 people have already signed up to join a class action against the Department over the leakage of PFAS chemicals from the Tindal RAAF Base.
Katherine will soon overtake other contaminated communities in Oakey (Qld) and Williamtown (NSW) which are well advanced in their own legal challenges.
Shine Lawyers has set up shop again in Katherine this week and is overwhelmed by the numbers of residents coming forward, according to special counsel Josh Aylward.
“We think the numbers here will eclipse those other communities and this will be the biggest case,” Mr Aylward said.
“It has a bigger population centre close by and the extent of the contamination is greater.
“There has been an overwhelming response in Katherine.”
PFAS chemicals were contained in fire fighting foams once used in training at the RAAF Base.
The PFAS chemicals have leaked into the groundwater, contaminating many of the region’s bores, and registering in the town’s drinking water.
Defence has already funded a $4 million water treatment plant add-on for Katherine to keep PFAS contamination below nationally adopted recommended safe levels.
Defence has launched a year-long study into the spread of the contamination from the base.
Defence will be holding a community walk-in session on December 4 at Knotts Crossing Resort in Katherine to provide an update on that study between 5-7pm.
A shopfront will be opened at the Oasis Shopping Centre on December 5 for the public to ask questions.
Mr Aylward said Katherine residents had complained to the lawyers about a poor level of communication from defence, particular in regards to compensation.
There has been one non-litigated claim against defence from Katherine but no further details have been released.
“Katherine people are still upset with what is happening there,” Mr Aylward said.
“There doesn’t seem to be any solution in sight.
“Defence could be doing a lot more.”
He said most residents were fearful of property devaluation.
“Their homes, their properties, are worth a heck of a lot less now because of contamination.
“After that comes health issues, people are fearful and rightly so, the information, the science coming from other countries is a lot different to what we currently hearing here.”
He said the class action should be ready for filing within months.
Shine Lawyers has already secured a litigation fund, IMF Bentham Ltd, to fund the Katherine class action.
“It will be alleged that the Commonwealth negligently allowed contaminants within firefighting foam used at the base to contaminate and continue to contaminate the investigation area for which the Commonwealth should be liable to pay compensation,” the firm said.
Defence has repeatedly said it would contest any legal case.