Peter and Jo Gillies at the Dr Mays Road bore.
Peter and Jo Gillies at the Dr Mays Road bore. Mike Knott BUN160418GILLIES2

Horrific deja vu for Bundy family who fled PFAS in NSW

"IT'S hard to describe to people who haven't been through it."   

This is what ex-Williamtown resident Peter Gillies told the NewsMail after news the Svensson Heights town water supply was contaminated with PFAS.   

Mr Gillies, his partner Jo and her two children lived in the coastal town, north of Newcastle, when investigations into the contamination began.   Their homes were in the location of what became known as the "Red Zone".   

They said the experience had opened their eyes and now, living 1200km away, it was a case of deja vu.   

"Back there it was kept under wraps from the public for more than a decade," he said.   

"It eventually came out and nothing made sense."   He said he believed PFAS was "fairly intrusive and it could penetrate concrete".   "When it initially came out we lived outside the official area to start with," he said.   

"Most of the area down there is rural and people use <FZ,1,0,25>rain and bore water.   

"We had a concrete tank underground and the chemical was able to get into it."  

The family moved to Moore Park Beach in 2016.   

He understands the fear the Bundaberg community had shown since the news broke on Friday.   

"The community here is asking the questions, doing their homework and wanting the information," he said.  

"When it happened down there it was all new and people didn't understand."   

When Mr Gillies saw the news reports on Friday he was gobsmacked and fearful.  

"We moved 1200km to get away from this and now it's followed us," he said.   

Mr Gillies claimed there was a "cancer cluster" in Williamstown. One one 5km stretch of road there were 70 cases of cancer, he says.  

News reports from March this year backed up Mr Gillies' claims that a higher than usual number of of cancer cases was found in people living in that area.  

However, Queensland's chief medical officer Dr Jeanette Young has said "there is no consistent evidence that PFAS causes any specific illnesses in humans".  

The New South Wales Government has set guidelines for residents who live within the contaminated Williamtown area.   

It recommended residents within the Williamtown Management Area follow precautionary advice to minimise their exposure to PFAS chemicals originating from the RAAF Base Williamtown.  

They advise groundwater, bore water and surface water should not be used for any purpose within the primary zone.    And the government strongly requested community members not to do anything with groundwater, bore water or surface water (including in creeks and drains) that might lead to incidental ingestion.   

"Home-grown foods produced in your area should not be consumed.

This includes home-slaughtered meat, poultry, eggs, milk, fruit and vegetables," the advice reads.  

The advice said it was safe to drink and use town water. water from the reticulated supply (town water).  

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl 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 non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications, food packaging, some industrial processes and in some types of fire-fighting foam.

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority established a PFAS investigation program, prioritising sites around the state where PFASs were used in significant quantities.  

Mr Gillies said when leaving Williamtown, they "made it out just in time".  

"We lost $150,000 on real estate we had there," he said.    "But you know what, at least we made it out."  

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