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Department of Environment and Science

Queensland Government

Department of Environment and Science

New Bundaberg PFAS testing results available

9 August 2018

The Queensland Government’s investigation into PFAS contamination in Bundaberg – which affected the town’s water network – has found a likely source.

Soil and surface water samples taken from within and adjacent to the Bundaberg Airport returned higher results than other surrounding areas. These results were below relevant national health guideline and screening values.

These results, in addition to groundwater flow in the area and specific PFAS chemicals present, suggest the airport is the likely source for the contamination.

Queensland was the first government in Australia to ban firefighting foam containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in July 2016, with the government also implementing a policy to phase out old stocks of firefighting foam containing PFAS by July 2019.

Fire-fighting foam containing perfluorinated substances such as PFOS and PFOA were used in fire-fighting and fire-fighting training in Australia from the 1970s to the mid-2000s.

It is the historical use of these foams that has led to higher PFAS levels being found at various Australian sites including civil airports, military air bases, large fuel storage terminals and refineries and ports.

The investigation found that the highest level of PFAS in soil and surface water was in the vicinity of the airport, with detections up to 3.07 mg/kg of PFOS and PFHxS in soil at the airport fire training grounds and
0.04 µg/L in surface water at the head of Saltwater Creek.

These detections are below national soil human health screening values for commercial and industrial use, and national guideline values for drinking water and recreational contact.

DES will continue working with Bundaberg Regional Council and Queensland Health to ensure appropriate monitoring and management.

During the investigation DES also tested the University Drive Landfill, an industrial estate and Dr Mays Reservoir, where Council originally detected the PFAS.

DES officers also door-knocked around 180 business operators in an industrial estate near where the original PFAS was detected in an effort to determine potential sources.

Further details of the investigation, including a map detailing sample types, locations and results is available at Environmental investigation page.

Queensland Health’s advice to the local community remains that the drinking water meets the national drinking water quality values for PFAS.
Bundaberg Regional Council has ceased sourcing water from the Dr Mays bore at Svensson Heights.

Questions relating to the Bundaberg water supply network can be addressed to Bundaberg Regional Council, while questions relating to issues of public health can be addressed to Queensland Health.

Further information on PFAS is available at Perfluorinated chemical site contamination page. 

Last updated
9 August 2018