Additional testing for PFAS in the Tuggerah Lakes system was promised by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in October 2017, but not delivered until April.
The promise followed the detection of PFAS fire-fighting chemicals at the Munmorah-Colongra power station site. Generator Property Management and Snowy Hydro advised the EPA that PFAS had been detected in the soil, surface water and ground water at, and around, the Munmorah and Colongra Power Stations in Colongra Rd, Colongra.
Both companies were directed to undertake further testing to determine the extent of the contamination and if there were any ways local residents may have come into contact with the chemicals. The NSW Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, put net fishing bans in place for the whole of the waters of Budgewoi Creek and its tributaries, extending upstream from the Traffic Road Bridge to the Pedestrian Bridge at the entrance to Lake Munmorah. The ban is on any species of fish, any method involving the use of a net and applies all year.
A ban on all fishing methods is also in place for Budgewoi Lake from 6:00pm to 6:00am daily, between May and August, for the whole of the waters of that part of Munmorah Power House outlet canal, Budgewoi Lake, northeast of the line bearing 140 degrees across the canal from the south-westernmost extremity of the breakwater on the southwestern side of the canal to Ourringo Point. In October, the EPA said additional testing would include a sampling of aquatic biota (fish, eels, prawns) around the power stations and in the wider Tuggerah Lakes system.
At that time, the EPA said it was reviewing the testing proposals put forward by Snowy Hydro (Colongra) and GPM Co (Munmorah) and would inform the community of the timeframes and results as they become available. On March 16, Wyong Regional Chronicle asked the EPA for an update on the status of its testing and results. On April 4, the EPA sent the following written response: “Testing for PFAS at the Tuggerah Lakes system has been confirmed and will commence this week.” Wyong Regional Chronicle will continue to monitor this process. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a group of man-made chemicals (previously known as PFCs) that have been used in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of nonstick cookware; fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications; food packaging; some industrial processes; and in some types of fi refi fighting foam.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) belong to this group of chemicals. These chemicals are very stable and do not break down in the environment, but they can persist for a long time, both in the environment and in humans. According to the EPA’s PFAS investigation site information on its website, the additional testing was to include fish sampling around the power stations and in the wider Tuggerah Lakes system and a water use survey of nearby residents. The EPA established that the risk to workers on both sites was low, as neither groundwater nor surface water was used for drinking or cooking, and no produce was grown on site for use as food. It continues to state publicly that the cancer links between PFAS and humans are unconfirmed.
Source: Media statement, Apr 4 EPA Media Jackie Pearson, journalist