Australia: National guidance for managing PFAS contamination released

Last Updated: 3 April 2017
Article by Karen Trainor

The Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment has released a risk-based guideline for assessing, managing and remediating per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances contamination.

There has been increased recognition in Australia about the potential risk that per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), historically used in firefighting foam and other industrial chemical applications, pose to humans and their surrounding environment. Exposure to these chemicals has potential adverse health effects, many of which are yet to be properly understood.

In a welcome development, the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) has released a risk-based guideline for assessing, managing and remediating PFAS contamination. The Guideline is aimed at assisting in the development of an approach towards uniformly dealing with PFAS contaminated sites across Australia. However, the Guideline is not a panacea for dealing with the significant complexities and unknowns inherent to PFAS contamination.

What you need to do

Anyone working in the contamination management industry, and owners and occupiers of land potentially contaminated with PFAS, should familiarise themselves with the Guidelines and the measures suggested for assessing, managing and remediating PFAS contamination.

It is important to bear in mind that best practice recommendations, and the relevant regulatory framework, will continue to evolve as the level of understanding of the implications of PFAS exposure and toxicity improves at a national and global level.

What is PFAS?

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been used globally to produce a range of consumer products. Apart from firefighting foam, PFAS has been used in the manufacture of stain-resistant coatings, waterproofing, food packaging, non-stick cookware and insecticides. They are also used in a wide arange of industrial processes such as mist suppressants in the metal plating industry, and may be found in some household products.

PFAS are emerging contaminants and their sources, toxicity, fate and transport are not well understood. Because of the persistence and difficulty of treating PFAS contamination, there is considerable uncertainty about the most appropriate management and remediation approaches.

Purpose of the Guideline

The uncertainty surrounding PFAS contamination, combined with the growing focus on it as the result of a number of high-profile PFAS contamination incidents, has highlighted the lack of clear Australian guidance for dealing with PFAS contamination.

The Guideline is intended to address this by providing a consistent, risk-based approach to the assessment, management and remediation of PFAS contamination in Australia based on the best information currently available.

Key issues addressed in the Guideline include:

  • human health and ecological screening levels for PFAS contamination in soil, groundwater, surface water, fish consumption and sediment;
  • a framework for discussion regarding the application of such screening levels; and
  • a risk-based approach to the management and remediation of PFAS contamination.

Guideline as an interim guidance

It is envisaged that the Guideline will be used by practitioners, industry, regulators and the owners or occupiers of land contaminated with PFAS. It adopts some recognised guidance values such as the enHealth interim national guidance on human health reference values for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances for use in site investigations in Australia.

Importantly, the Guideline is intended to complement the National Remediation Framework currently being developed by CRC Care that will provide a national approach to managing contaminated sites generally.

Due to the evolving nature of the science relating to PFAS, the Guideline provides interim guidance only, a review of the Guideline will likely follow any change in recommendation by authorities such as the Environmental Health Standing Committee of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (enHealth) or Food Standards Australia New Zealand. We also expect the Guideline to continue evolving as the level of understanding at the national and international level increases as more work is undertaken in relation to PFAS.

It is expected that the regulatory framework surrounding PFAS will continue to evolve as further research is conducted and the level of understanding around acceptable concentrations and remediation methods increases.

Some other events and developments

Coinciding with the release of the Guidelines is a summit of international experts to be hosted by the Victorian EPA, on behalf of the Heads of the EPAs Australia and New Zealand (HEPA), and the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy. Keynote speakers will include representatives from the German Environment Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The summit will be held in Melbourne on 4-5 April 2017, and is intended to provide regulators with an opportunity to further explore the regulation of PFAS, with ultimate aim of informing the development of a PFAS national management plan.

In addition, more work is occurring at State level in relation to PFAS management, including an investigation program being undertaken by the NSW Environment Protection Authority assessing the legacy of PFAS across New South Wales.

All of this activity, combined with the draft and interim nature of the Guidelines, emphasises the significant amount of work that still needs to be done before regulatory certainty can be provided in relation to the assessment, management and remediation of PFAS. This will be an area of significant regulatory focus over coming years, both in Australia and internationally. In the meantime, regulators and industry will need to draw heavily from resources such as the Guidelines.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.