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RAAF Amberley under investigation for contamination

Firefighting drills may have contaminated RAAF Base Amberley and surrounding areas.
Firefighting drills may have contaminated RAAF Base Amberley and surrounding areas. David Nielsen

AN INVESTIGATION into whether chemicals used in RAAF Base Amberley's fire-fighting drills have contaminated the base and surrounding areas is about to commence.

Earlier this month Queensland listed Oakey Army Aviation Centre on the state's environmental register after it was discovered perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in fire-fighting foams had leached into the ground and contaminated a portion of the ground water supply.

Another similar case in Williamtown, NSW, has prompted concerns further defence bases could also face the same contamination.

A Senate inquiry into the contamination of other Australian Defence Force sites from fire-fighting foams, including RAAF Base Amberley, has been extended to May 11 this year.

Until then residents around the base will be left unsure of whether they have been exposed to the chemicals, which do not break down in the environment.

The chemicals, also used in the manufacture of some non-stick cookware, were used in fire-fighting foams from 1970 until the mid-2000s.

Department of Defence recently said it would remain open and transparent with local authorities and property owners throughout the investigation.

"Aqueous film-forming foam containing PFOS and PFOA was used extensively worldwide and within Australia by both civilian and military authorities up until the mid-late 2000s due to its effectiveness in extinguishing liquid fuel fires," the Department of Defence said.

"To determine areas possibly affected by legacy fire-fighting foam, Defence is reviewing its estate and its historical uses and practices. This will include RAAF Amberley which has been identified as a base where Legacy AFFF products were used.

"Defence will commence preliminary environmental investigations at RAAF Amberley in the next few months."

Defence said it was unaware of contamination at RAAF Base Amberley but would know more once the investigation began.

"Defence is not aware of any PFOS/PFOA contamination adjacent to RAAF Amberley," the Department of Defence said.

"The purpose of the preliminary investigation is to understand whether there is PFOS/PFOA contamination on the base as well as adjacent to the base.

"It would be premature to speculate whether PFOS and PFOA will be found outside of the base."

Topics:  firefighting poison raaf base amberley