ARTICLE
30 October 2019

Potential release of PFAS threatening biosecurity of industries on the Sunshine Coast

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Cooper Grace Ward

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Established in 1980, Cooper Grace Ward is a leading independent law firm in Brisbane with over 20 partners and 200 team members. They offer a wide range of commercial legal services with a focus on corporate, commercial, property, litigation, insurance, tax, and family law. Their specialized team works across various industries, providing exceptional client service and fostering a strong team culture.
If oceans and rivers are contaminated with PFAS, the fish and aquatic animals in those waterways could be contaminated.
Australia Environment
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After heavy rainfall earlier this year, the Sunshine Coast Airport is considering building a pipeline to pump 125 million litres of PFAS-contaminated water from the airport into the ocean at Marcoola. Such a proposal is a timely reminder to the fishery and tourism industries of the potential dangers that these chemicals can pose to human and animal health and the environment and of the strict biosecurity protections of agricultural industries.

PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) have typically been used in Australia since the 1950s to make products and coatings resist heat, oil, stains, water and grease. Consequently, they were commonly used in firefighting foam at airports and defence bases.

Although they continue to be used today in small amounts, high levels of PFAS are an environmental and health concern, easily spreading if leached into groundwater or other water supplies. As there is no known way for PFAS to break down, with trace amounts found in both animals and humans, they stay in the environment for a long time.

In Australia, Oakey, Katherine and Williamtown have experienced PFAS contamination with authorities advising the communities to stop eating home-grown produce and drinking or using the contaminated water so as to minimise their exposure to the potentially dangerous chemicals. In Darwin, the presence of PFAS in local waterways caused authorities to advise residents to limit their recreational activities in those waterways as the chemicals exceeded the Australian recreational use water guidelines.

Studies have also found that animals who have ingested PFAS have experienced negative effects on their reproductive and developmental systems, livers and kidneys. Accordingly, the commercial and recreational fishing industries should be aware that, if oceans and rivers are contaminated with PFAS, the fish and aquatic animals in those waterways could be contaminated.

© Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers

Cooper Grace Ward is a leading Australian law firm based in Brisbane.

This publication is for information only and is not legal advice. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances and not rely on this publication as legal advice. If there are any issues you would like us to advise you on arising from this publication, please contact Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers.

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