Update on Norfolk Island PFAS response

09 December 2021

The Australian Government is close to finalising the detailed investigation into elevated levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the Norfolk Island International Airport, and the implementation of a range of management and remediation measures.

Senversa and the expert PFAS team are planning to return to Norfolk Island in early 2022 to present the results of the Detailed Site Investigation, with elevated PFAS levels at the airport relating to the historical use of firefighting foams there.

The team will go through the risk assessment to the community, as well as talking through the PFAS Management Plan being prepared as a roadmap to manage any potential risks arising from PFAS contamination associated with the Airport and surrounding areas. It is anticipated that a representative from the Department of Health will also attend to answer any community questions.

As part of its response to the PFAS detection, the Department engaged the University of Queensland (UQ) to investigate the blood serum levels of PFAS in current and former firefighting staff of the Norfolk Island Fire Service (NIFS).

Participants in the study were provided their individual results earlier in the year and were this week provided with a confidential summary report.

With the small number of participants, the report will not be publicly released due to privacy and confidentiality issues. However, a full Airservices Australia exposure study report assessing the exposure of firefighters and emergency vehicle technicians, conducted by UQ is available online at: https://qaehs.centre.uq.edu.au/results_ASA2

Additionally, and separate to the NI study, UQ is assessing the effectiveness of PFAS exposure control in exposed communities and firefighters. All NIFS study participants have been invited to take part in this study. Further information on the study is at the following link: https://qaehs.centre.uq.edu.au/pfas-exposure-control

Norfolk Island firefighting trucks containing foam with PFAS as an active ingredient will have their tanks drained, cleaned and then refilled with approved foam which does not contain PFAS as an active ingredient in early 2022. Once the firefighting truck cleaning works have been completed, the remaining, on-Island stocks of legacy foam containing PFAS will be removed to the mainland for disposal.

The Department will keep the community informed ahead of the on-island information sessions. If you have questions or would like further information, contact NIPFAS@infrastructure.gov.au or the Department on 23315. For further information on PFAS, please go to www.pfas.gov.au.

Media contact: media@infrastructure.gov.au | 1300 732 749