Our Lady of Lourdes Tarro - Environmental Investigation

In September 2019, Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) became aware of historical aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) training activities conducted near its Tarro Fire Station, in the NSW Hunter region. Anecdotal reports indicate that legacy AFFF was applied to the ground in an open area at the rear (north and west) of the fire station which was later acquired by the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

In September 2019, FRNSW engaged Nation Partners to conduct an environmental investigation into the presence of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) present within AFFF, at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School, Tarro.

The preliminary site investigation is complete and involved a desktop historical review, site inspection, and limited preliminary sampling.

PFAS were detected in the investigation area.

Based on the findings from the preliminary site investigation, detailed sampling works were completed during the October school holidays to better understand the extent of PFAS present at the site and included sampling of soils, groundwater and available surface water.

An investigation Report (DSI) containing additional information relating to next steps, such as recommendations for any further investigation or management actions that may be required was released in December 2019 to the school community.

The report did not identify any elevated risk of exposure to PFAS to children, staff, and other people using OLOL Primary School from surface and near surface soils, surface water, tank water, produce, and groundwater.

The report identified that PFAS is likely to be migrating offsite via surface water (stormwater) (the primary migration pathway) and groundwater and therefore further investigation was recommended and commenced in January 2020. The works involve:

  • Additional testing of soils and surface water (stormwater) within the investigation area; and
  • Testing of soils and surface water outside the investigation area (offsite).

The results of further testing will be used to inform the planning of any necessary remedial works at OLOL Primary School to reduce potential offsite risk of exposure and the completion of the human health and ecological risk assessment (anticipated April 2020).

The NSW EPA will continue to monitor FRNSW’s progress and provide expert advice to ensure an appropriate scientific and risk-based approach is followed throughout the investigation.

View more at EPA - Tarro, Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School [external link] 

FRNSW will continue to work closely with all key stakeholders to ensure the school community is informed of the results and any developments over the course of the investigations.