21 Feb 2018

Voluntary ground (below ground) and surface water testing at the Port of Mackay has found low concentrations of PFAS – a group of chemicals that have been widely used in consumer and industrial products, including firefighting foams.

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP) acting CEO Brendan Webb said while testing had shown the presence of PFAS, based on the information available, it represented a low risk to human health.

Mr Webb said based on the present results, no immediate changes to public activities such as swimming, boating, or fishing were required.
“While more testing is planned, initial results indicate that PFAS levels are decreasing as groundwater moves away from the Port and are below the drinking and recreational values close to the boundary,” he said.

“Importantly, no groundwater at the Port is used for human consumption or recreational purposes.

“NQBP follows established practice that groundwater in general should not be used for these purposes unless it is tested and known to be completely safe.”

No restrictions have been placed on the consumption of seafood caught in or near the Port.

“Anyone catching and eating seafood should follow Queensland Health’s general advice to limit their consumption of seafood to two or three serves per week and source seafood from multiple locations,” Mr Webb said.

Mr Webb said after detecting low concentrations, NQBP immediately started working with Queensland government departments and independent experts on next steps to address this matter.

“NQBP is working with Queensland Health, the Department of Environment and Science (DES), and other experts, to implement a response plan to continue to ensure the ongoing health and wellbeing of our people, the community and the environment,” he said.

NQBP’s response includes:

  • A site investigation and sampling plan, including further engagement with tenants and customers to understand current and historical uses of firefighting foam.
  • A water use survey, incorporating engagement with nearby residents to determine the presence of any bores and the need for any testing.
  • Working with environmental experts to conduct further sampling analysis and developing a quality plan for submission to the Queensland Government.

“We will continue to work with DES and Queensland Health on this matter,” Mr Webb said.

“PFAS are persistent chemicals found at many sites around the world from legacy use at industrial sites like Mackay Harbour, which has been a working port for more than 50 years.

“None of NQBP’s firefighting foams contain PFAS, as these have been replaced with fluorine-free foams.”

NQBP takes its responsibility for the health and wellbeing of our stakeholders and the environment seriously and is committed to engaging with the community and its stakeholders when more information becomes available.

Further information on PFAS in Queensland is available on the Queensland Government website.

ENDS

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation contact:

For media enquiries, please contact:
Amanda Blines | Senior Advisor Corporate Communications
07 4969 0774 | ablines@nqbp.com.au

For further information, please contact:
1300 129 255 | communications@nqbp.com.au