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Armidale Site - Environmental investigation

Background

FRNSW has engaged GHD Pty Ltd (GHD) to undertake an environmental investigation into the presence of PFAS on, and in the vicinity of, FRNSW’s Armidale training site.

The investigation is part of a review of a number of our sites across NSW where legacy firefighting foams containing PFAS have been stored, used and disposed of.

PFAS is a class of manufactured chemicals generally present in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) which was used extensively worldwide from the 1970s due to its effectiveness in fighting liquid fuel fires.

The term PFAS relates to a large number of compounds. The primary PFAS compounds of interest to the investigation include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS), and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). FRNSW’s preliminary sampling focused on these compounds as guideline values exist and they have been deemed important to assessing risk.

The firefighting foams now used by FRNSW are more environmentally sensitive and do not contain PFOS or PFOA.

Preliminary Investigation

The preliminary investigation commenced in June 2016 and was completed in February 2017. Some of the objectives of this initial investigation included:

  • reviewing site history for AFFF use and identifying potential sources of PFAS
  • investigating and modelling how PFAS moves through the environment
  • sampling and laboratory analysis of groundwater, surface water, soils and sediments.

FRNSW now have results back which confirm PFAS is present in environmental samples collected. In some cases, levels are above the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) health based guidance values.

The full report can be found here. (PDF, 15.3MB)

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

A more detailed assessment of the Armidale site and surrounding area commenced in June 2017 with additional off-site sampling to further understand the pathways for potential migration of PFAS from the site.

The community was asked to assist in these investigations by completing a water survey to help identify how potentially contaminated water is being used. This water use survey was distributed to 28 people and a fact sheet was also circulated to residents within a 2km radius of the Armidale site.

The Armidale site generally slopes to the north. Surface water is directed to the north through drainage channels with two main drainage lines coming from the site.

Groundwater flow is in a northerly direction impacting off-site receptors that include the tributary/drainage channel running off-site to the north into neighbouring properties.

A copy of the water survey can be found here. (PDF)

FRNSW will continue to work closely with the EPA, the NSW PFAS Taskforce and the community to develop strategies to minimise further migration of PFAS and to continually assess the risk to human populations and ecosystems.

The full report can be found here. (PDF, 30.6MB)

This website provides specific information relevant to the Armidale investigation. Visit the EPA website for more background information relating to PFAS and the wider investigation program across NSW.

For enquiries related to this investigation please refer to the contacts page.

Consulting with stakeholders

FRNSW is committed to being open and transparent about these investigations. We will update the community at key stages throughout the investigations, and we encourage the community to contact us about their concerns.

More Information

Phone contact through the 1800 number, direct mail, and fact sheets will provide further support to assist with information access as the investigation progresses.

Contact details can be found here.

Further information on PFAS and the PFAS investigation program being undertaken by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) can be found on the EPA website at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/Mediainformation/pfasinvestigation.htm.

If you would like to talk to the NSW EPA please call the Environment Line on 131 555.

Information on PFAS health effects and exposure pathways can be found on the Department of Health’s website at. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-pfas-hbgv.htm

Armidale - Documentation

This page contains links to reports which have been prepared by independent consultants engaged by FRNSW. The following is a list of reports relevant to this project. Report are provided in full.

The Sampling Analysis and Quality Report was released in November 2016.

Armidale Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment - GHD (PDF, 30.6MB)
Armidale Sampling Analysis and Quality Plan – GHD (PDF, 19.9MB)
Armidale Preliminary Investigation Report - GHD (PDF, 15.3MB)
Residents Water Survey (PDF)
Armidale Fact Sheet (PDF)