Researchers have divided Katherine into PFAS hot spots.
Much like the red zone, made famous surrounding the Williamtown RAAF Base in NSW, Katherine now has two main “zones” of chemical concentration.
Researchers preparing reports for the Department of the Defence last night told an update meeting in Katherine the “worst” or zone one, had PFAS concentrations in the groundwater higher than recreation limits.
Zone one is believed to follow the line of the contamination as it passes from Tindal in the groundwater directly under Katherine and into the river.
They have done hundreds of tests on water, soil, fish and plants to discover where the PFAS chemicals still leaking from the Tindal RAAF Base are passing underneath the town and emptying into the Katherine River.
People living in those zones can expect new health warnings soon from the NT Government, which was also provided with the research results this week.
Katherine Times has been told those warnings should be issued within the next two weeks.
Those warnings will likely be to avoid eating eggs and vegetables that are home grown and irrigated from bores.
The meeting was told sampling of leafy vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes even home grown meat had revealed “elevated” results.
Fruit produced “random” results and was deemed safe to eat.
Some bush foods were also now contaminated, the meeting was told.
In the past, all the warnings have been to avoid drinking the bore water.
The fish warnings appear to have extended further upstream of the Stuart Highway bridge to Knott’s Crossing or Donkey Camp weir and downstream from there.
Coffey researcher Sarah Richards said the latest sampling had now included wet season results.
Fish sampling found barramundi had the lowest results and mullet the highest, Dr Richards said.
Dust coming off the contaminated soil from the base, particularly ground zero at the former fire training area, was also a concern.
Recreation limits, on today’s health advisories, is higher than 0.7 micrograms per litre.
Last October, Katherine’s swimming pool was closed after testing found it had produced a reading of 0.84.
The pool’s water was drained to the town’s sewerage lagoons and the pool’s filters replaced to bring the levels down – the pool’s latest published result from April 4 was 0.08.
Zone two for Katherine is those areas with groundwater tests above the drinking water standard of 0.07.
No information was provided to last night’s meeting whether the expected health warnings will include zone two as well.
There are other zones, further away from the hot spots, and around the river.
The Katherine Times is attempting to locate a map of the zones.