Only a handul of Katherine people were able to attend this week’s Department of Defence update on its two-year PFAS investigation.
The update was held on Tuesday night which clashed with several other events in Katherine including the Katherine Town Council monthly meeting and the CDU graduation night.
About 30 people were in attendance at Knotts Crossing, many of them public servants involved in the investigation.
It was almost two years to the day since Defence first outlined the town’s exposure to PFAS contamination from the Tindal RAAF Base, at the same venue.
After taking thousands of samples in and around Tindal and Katherine, the final in a series of environment reports was released this week.
The Ecological Risk Assessment Report, which outlines PFAS exposure risks for plants and animals, found mostly that the risk of PFAS to the local ecology was either negligible, low or very low.
The report again confirms “transport of PFAS through the environment is predominantly with water flows. There PFAS from the on-base sources migrates with groundwater beneath the surface, and with contaminated surface water run-off towards the receiving water ways of Tindal Creek and Katherine River”.
Katherine River downstream of Knott’s Crossing to the junction of the Daly River is “considered to receive contaminated groundwater associated with the base”.
The report also says a variety of animals and plants found in aquatic and terrestrial habitats may be exposed to PFAS compounds both on-base and off-base.
The report found there was an “elevated risk” to multiple species from the PFAS hot spot at the fire training area on the base.
A low or negligible risk was identified in other areas.
The “adverse effects most likely to occur (base/Tindal Creek) … are reproductive effects including reduced offspring survival”, the report says.
The risk in the Tindal Creek/base area was described as medium where there was the potential for adverse effects to some species but were “not likely to be lethal”.
The report again states PFAS compounds do not degrade and “are expected to remain in the environment for many decades”.
The publication of the report ends the environmental investigation conducted at Katherine in accordance with the National Environment Protection Measure, Defence said.
“Following the completion of the investigation, Defence remains committed to working with the community, and to continuing its active involvement in the remediation and management of PFAS in Katherine.”
Defence plans to release its PFAS Management Area Plan to outline the activities Defence will undertake to manage and monitor PFAS within the Investigation Area by the end of the year.
The Ecological Risk Assessment Report and associated factsheets can be viewed here.
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