WATER SUPPLY: Chemical contamination in the Dr Mays Rd bore.
WATER SUPPLY: Chemical contamination in the Dr Mays Rd bore. Mike Knott BUN130418BORE6

PFAS: What you need to know

BUNDABERG residents have this week been rocked by the news that Svensson Heights water has been contaminated by PFAS.

The Bundaberg Regional Council held an emergency media presser on Friday afternoon to inform residents of the chemical contamination, stating Per-and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) had entered the water supply.

BRC Mayor Jack Dempsey said confirmation of the contamination happened on Thursday afternoon and the bore at Dr May's Rd was immediately closed down.

"These types of chemicals while predominated from fire fighting resources they are also from other magnate chemicals as well,” he said.

"We just want to confirm to the community once it was identified, action was taken immediately.”

While Cr Dempsey, along with Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, reassured residents there was "no immediate” health risk, locals have been firing questions online about what exactly the situation meant.

Here is a breakdown of what PFAS is all about:

What are per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances?

According to the Department of Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee information, PFAS is known as Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

It is a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and speciality 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.

There are many types of PFASs. The best known examples are:

  • perfluorooctane sulfonate, also known as "PFOS”; and
  • perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as "PFOA”.
  • perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) is another chemical of the PFAS group and is also present in some fire-fighting foams.


How do PFASs enter the environment?

The AHPPC said, in addition to contamination from the use of fire-fighting foams, PFASs can be "released into the environment from landfill sites where products and materials that contain these chemicals are sent for disposal, and into ground and surface water through sewer discharges”.

Manufacturing facilities that handle PFASs are also sources of PFAS release into the environment. 

How do PFASs affect human health?

The AHPPC said whether the chemicals cause health problems in humans is relatively unknown.

"As a precaution, people living in or near an area that has been identified as having been contaminated with PFOS, PFOA or PFHxS should take steps to limit their exposure to these chemicals.” 

To find out more information about the Bundaberg incident, click here.   

Anyone with concerns should contact the State government immediately on 13 HEALTH.

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