More PFAS hell for West Bullsbrook residents

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PFAS has been detected at many sites including the Gingin satellite airfield, the Yanchep Fire and Rescue Service, Pearce air base, West Bullsbrook and the Tamala Park waste disposal facility.

RESIDENTS living in a PFAS affected area have been left very aware the Morrison and McGowan governments are no closer to bringing scheme water to the area to help solve the mental anguish they have undergone for more than three years.

At a community information session yesterday in Bullsbrook Pearce MHR and Attorney General Christian Porter said he thought scheme water was the way to go for West Bullsbrook residents so they did not have to drink water from their bores some of which had returned positive PFAS results.

But he thought the federal and state governments should contribute funding on a pro rata basis as the supply of water was a state issue.

Swan Hills MLA Jessica Shaw went in to bat for residents saying the Commonwealth government had caused the problem and had a moral obligation to fix it.

Ms Shaw said Water Minister Dave Kelly had been trying to get a meeting with the Morrison Government about extending scheme water to West Bullsbrook for more than six months.

In a letter dated July 8 to Defence Minister Linda Reynolds seen by Yanchep News Online Mr Kelly said the findings of the Senate Inquiry into management of PFAS Contamination in and around Defence bases recommended the Australian Government take financial responsibility for the contamination.

Mr Porter, who is in the position of advising the government and the Department of Defence on the issue while he is also the elected member representing the affected residents, told the residents at the first community information session they could make a compensation claim if they believe they have suffered loss or harm as a consequence of PFAS use at Pearce air base.

But Shine Lawyers special counsel Joshua Aylward said this was an age old story which the Commonwealth had been touting for more than five years now.

Mr Aylward said with tens of thousands of residents affected by PFAS around Australia, it would not give the Bullsbrook community any comfort knowing the Commonwealth had only struck one deal for a handful of peanuts.

“The resident in Oakey who received some compensation was former Defence and his son (also former Defence) acted for him in that matter,’’ he said.

Residents were also stunned by an announcement that most households in the West Bullsbrook area will by about October not receive bottled water.

Defence PFAS investigation and management branch assistant secretary Luke McLeod told residents out of 164 residential bores sampled for PFAS, 26 had detections above the limit of reporting.

Mr McLeod said Defence would continue to provide alternative water to properties that had recorded PFAS above the limit of reporting.

“(But) the investigation has found that the majority of properties do not have PFAS impacted bores and can return to using bore water,’’ he said.

However, he and the investigation team were unable to guarantee that those properties would not in the future be affected by PFAS.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation website says PFAS are highly persistent in the environment, moderately soluble, can be transported long distances (in some cases many kilometres) and transfer between soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater.

Mr McLeod said Defence was considering filters, which would be installed on bores to reduce PFAS concentrations, as the preferred long-term water supply option.

One West Bullsbrook resident said she did not want to return to drinking her bore water and Mr McLeod said if she was not happy she should get in touch with Defence.

Bullsbrook Residents and Ratepayers Association (BRRA) president Anne Sibbel said she was concerned about allowing visitors to the BRRA-operated Bullsbrook Museum to drink the bore water again.

Mrs Sibbel said tests on the museum bore had returned negative results but bores near the museum had returned quite high PFAS results.

She wanted Defence in case there was an issue with the museum bore water in the future to give an indemnity, which Mr McLeod said he was not able to give.

Mr Alward said the Defence compensation claim form was grossly ineffective and appeared to merely waste residents’ time.

“Communities around Australia have been dealing with PFAS contamination for half a decade and the government continues to ignore those who are affected,’’ he said.

“Residents need to be very careful when filling in the Defence claim form as a resident’s claim may be significantly more then they may realise.”

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are found in firefighting foams and other products, have been detected at many sites including Pearce air base, West Bullsbrook, Gingin satellite airfield and the Yanchep Fire and Rescue Service as well as the Tamala Park waste disposal facility operated by the Mindarie Regional Council.

In May the Valuer General confirmed 137 properties in the PFAS-affected West Bullsbrook area had been reviewed and on average unimproved values (UVs) had fallen by 50 per cent.

Valuer General Lester Cousins told Echo News it was the first time PFAS-affected properties had been revalued in WA.