RAAF foam residue testing

RAAF Base East Sale, will undergo testing to ensure there are safe levels of chemicals in soil and groundwater, as part of a larger examination of 16 sites across Australia.

The base has been assessed as a site where there has been a history of using aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) on site.

The foam was used extensively worldwide and in Australia by civilian and military authorities because of its effectiveness in extinguishing liquid fuel fires.

Defence is investigating the extent of deposits of the chemicals on and in the vicinity of some of its bases. 

From 2004, Defence phased out use of the old foam and now uses an environmentally safer product.

If test results prove positive at RAAF Base, East Sale, a Defence spokesperson said construction work at the base would be managed in accordance with the Construction Environmental Management Plan.

Defence said the investigations would be undertaken in accordance with the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) framework.

Most people living in developed nations have levels of PFOS and PFOA in their bodies as these chemicals have also been used in common household and speciality applications.

This includes use in the manufacture of non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications, food packaging and in some industrial processes.

According to the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) Perfluorinated Chemicals Guidance Statements released on March 16, there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to these chemicals causes health problems in humans.

Defence maintains it is being open and transparent in making the verified sampling results available to state, territory and local authorities, as well as nearby property owners.

It has been reported that contaminated soil and groundwater from AFFF use at the Fiskville CFA training facility caused brain and skin cancers.

Testing also took place last year looking for possible contaminants at the Fulham CFA facility.

That testing, conducted by the Environment Protection Authority,  did not find any abnormalities in drinking water, nor any off site contamination.