Voluntary water testing at the Port of Mackay in 2017 found traces of the chemical compound per-and-poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS). While the risk level of PFAS is considered low as no water is used for human consumption, the safety of our community, our stakeholders and our people is our top priority.

In the interests of transparency, this page outlines the current results of our PFAS testing at the port, as well as the comprehensive actions we are taking in response.

PFAS are a group of chemicals that are widely used in consumer and industrial products.

Port of Mackay status

The latest groundwater quality results (December 2019) from NQBP’s ongoing monitoring continue to indicate the risk posed by PFAS at the Port of Mackay remains low.

Seasonally there are two exceedances of guideline values that have been recorded. However, they are considered to be low risk as no groundwater at these locations are used for human consumption purposes.

NQBP continues to work closely with the Queensland departments of Health and Environment.

PFAS foams are not used by NQBP at any of its ports, in line with the Queensland Government policy.

Groundwater Quality Results

The map below shows the location of ground water wells and results per year to date from on-going monitoring at the Port of Mackay. Click on the map for a larger version.

Groundwater
Human Health Guidelines*
Sum of PFHxS and PFOS (µg/L)
Drinking Water0.07
Recreational0.7
Sample LocationMar 2019Jun 2019Sep 2019Dec 2019
MW10.00130.00190.00110.0022
MW20.00170.00080.00130.0021
MW30.00140.00080.0010.001
MW42.652.413.022.84
MW50.0014<0.0003<0.0003<0.0003
MW60.00980.02530.02010.54
MW70.00260.00690.0030.0017
MW80.03320.03020.05790.0386

Note: Presentation of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) results has been excluded. All results were less than the drinking water guideline (0.56 µg/L), recreational water guideline (5.6 µg/L) or less than the laboratory level of reporting

The exceedances represented by bold and italicised values in the table above are considered to represent a low risk as no groundwater at the port is used for human consumption or recreational purposes.

Acronyms/references

  • PFOS: Perfluorooctane sulfonate
  • PFHxS-Perfluorohexane sulfonate
  • µg/L: Micrograms per litre
  • <# or LOR: Level of reporting (below laboratory level of detection / unable to be detected).

*Human Health Guidelines

Australian Department of Health (2017) guidance values for drinking water and recreational water (non-natural water bodies such as pools).

Groundwater
Human Health Guidelines*
Sum of PFHxS and PFOS (µg/L)
Drinking Water0.07
Recreational0.7
Sample LocationNov 2017Dec 2017Mar 2018May 2018Aug 2018Sep 2018Dec 2018
MW1<0.010.0309<0.002<0.002<0.001<0.0020.0034
MW2<0.010.0020.00140.00240.00170.00310.0056
MW30.020.0050.00090.0017<0.0010.00240.0036
MW46.112.781.241.573.582.72.45
MW5<0.010.0042<0.00030.001<0.0010.00210.0063
MW60.520.3840.01860.0380.0670.130.999
MW7  0.0020.0110.0090.00420.0042
MW8  0.03490.0430.0510.05120.0207

Note: Presentation of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) results has been excluded. All results were less than the drinking water guideline (0.56 µg/L), recreational water guideline (5.6 µg/L) or less than the laboratory level of reporting.

The exceedances represented by bold and italicised values in the table above are considered to represent a low risk as no groundwater at the port is used for human consumption or recreational purposes.

Acronyms/references

  • PFOS: Perfluorooctane sulfonate
  • PFHxS-Perfluorohexane sulfonate
  • µg/L: Micrograms per litre
  • <# or LOR: Level of reporting (below laboratory level of detection / unable to be detected).

*Human Health Guidelines

Australian Department of Health (2017) guidance values for drinking water and recreational water (non-natural water bodies such as pools).

In November 2017, voluntary ground (below ground) and surface water testing at the port found traces of PFAS – a group of chemicals that are widely used in consumer and industrial products, including firefighting foams.

In response, NQBP immediately started working with Queensland government departments and independent experts on the next steps to address this matter, including further investigations.

NQBP undertook these environmental investigations in accordance with national guidelines - the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (NEPM) and PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (2018).

Initial results in late 2017 found the low-level concentrations represented a low risk to human health. In early 2018, NQBP engaged independent experts GHD to assist us develop and implement a systematic and sustainable PFAS response at the port and surrounding areas. In addition, NQBP is working closely with the Queensland Government’s PFAS Technical Working Group.

Neighbouring Water Use Survey

In 2018, NQBP conducted a water use survey with nearby residents to determine the presence of any bores and the need for any testing. In total, 63 properties were visited, with 31 surveys returned, 30 surveys outstanding and two surveys declined.

Ongoing Investigation

In addition to our standard, quarterly groundwater monitoring program, NQBP commissioned an additional, detailed site investigation (DSI) at the Port to ensure PFAS remains well-managed and risks continue to be low.

The DSI, endorsed by the Queensland Government’s PFAS Technical Working Group, involves establishing a range of additional monitoring sites across the port and surrounding areas, as well as further engagement with port tenants regarding historic and current Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) storage and use.

As part of the DSI and in line with recommended practice, NQBP is undertaking further studies in the estuary and marine environment in and around the Port of Mackay. This additional work is ongoing and, when finalised, will help to determine whether further studies are required to inform future management of PFAS.

Keeping stakeholders informed

We will continue to liaise with the community and all our stakeholders to advise of any changes.

The ongoing health and well-being of our people, the community, and the environment remains our priority.

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

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please call 1300 129 255.