Residents stranded on toxic and unsaleable properties have welcomed the Berejiklian government's decision to break ranks with its federal counterpart, after NSW called on the Turnbull government to compensate the victims of the country's firefighting foam contamination scandal.
The president of the Coalition against PFAS, Lindsay Clout, said residents felt surprised and vindicated on Friday, labelling the move a "huge shift".
“It's a powerful statement that the NSW Liberal government is coming out now and distancing themselves from a Liberal federal government," he said.
"People are now seeing the information coming out of the United States that's confirming the things we've been saying for so long and it's sounding alarm bells.
"It's like everyone wants to be on the winning side."
Last month a Fairfax Media investigation highlighted at least 90 sites across the country that have been contaminated with toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals [PFAS], used for decades in firefighting foams on military bases.
In a scathing submission to a Senate inquiry on the handling of the fiasco, the NSW government urged the federal government to take "urgent" action to clean up polluted bases and to rethink its messaging on the health effects of the toxins.
The NSW EPA had been left $3.5 million out of pocket, the submission said, because it had not been reimbursed by Defence for action it had taken to help affected communities despite "numerous" requests in the last 12 months.
There was also a stunning rebuke of the Commonwealth's refusal to buy back land across Australia that has been heavily contaminated.
"The NSW government believes this is inconsistent with the 'polluter pays' principle," the submission said.
"The Australian government should consider appropriate compensation for property impacted by PFAS contamination emanating from Defence lands where remediation of the contaminated sites is not possible or is unviable."
The assistant federal environment minister, Melissa Price, who has carriage of the issue, said the federal government was aware that parties "have made or will make" submissions to the inquiry.
"As is always the case, the government participates in parliamentary inquiries and will consider and respond to any recommendations in due course," she said.
One of the largest contamination plumes falls within the electorate of Kate Washington, the Labor member for Port Stephens. She argued that the developments indicated the NSW government was "finally ... starting to understand the enormity of the problem."
"Until now we've been fighting on our own," she said. "Here's hoping the Prime Minister listens and acts."
The NSW government reiterated calls for Australia to join 171 other countries in banning the worst in the family of chemicals - perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS - and urged Defence to consider abandoning its use of the toxic foams altogether.
Defence no longer uses PFAS-containing firefighting foams for training, but they are still used in emergency situations where life is at risk.
The state took aim at the federal government for its emphasis that there was "no consistent evidence" PFAS could cause health effects in humans.
The position is disputed by authorities in the United States, who accept there is evidence that the chemicals can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans at high enough levels.
Fairfax Media uncovered 50 cancer cases on a rural road in NSW and a further 21 cancer cases from a high school in Minnesota, where both populations had been heavily exposed to PFAS.
The investigation also revealed that the manufacturer of the chemicals, Minnesota-based 3M company, had been accused of engaging in a decades-long campaign to conceal the chemicals' harmful effects from the public.
"Further research is required to address the insufficient evidence on possible adverse health outcomes," the NSW government said in its submission.
"Given these substances persist in the environment for a long period of time, it is important to take actions to minimise exposure, rather than focus on the lack of evidence of health impacts."
The submission acknowledged that Defence's communication with affected communities had "improved" but argued it should publish ongoing monitoring reports to keep residents abreast of changes in PFAS concentrations in their environment over time.
"Defence needs to have greater consideration of advice provided by the NSW government, particularly in development of appropriate sampling methodology," it said.