Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Response to PFAS detection on Norfolk Island

Recent sampling has detected elevated levels of PFAS in groundwater at three locations on public land in the Mission Creek catchment adjacent to Norfolk Island International Airport.

This information is being provided to the community as quickly as possible. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development (the Department) is undertaking urgent work to determine the precise extent of the contamination and the potential exposure pathways for people and the environment. The Government is moving swiftly on a detailed environmental investigation, which will include a Human Health Risk Assessment for Norfolk Island.

This assessment will identify the nature and extent of PFAS in the local environment (including soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater) related to the historical use of firefighting foams at Norfolk Island International Airport.

The Government has been working closely with communities in mainland Australia where PFAS has been detected and will be able to use that experience to assist Norfolk Island. There is no proven evidence yet that PFAS causes disease. However, these chemicals persist in the environment for long periods of time so it is prudent to minimise exposure where possible.

As a precaution, until the investigation is complete and further advice provided, the Department recommends not drinking water from any underground or creek sources within the Mission Creek catchment around the airport or using bore water taken from that catchment to re-fill rainwater tanks that supply drinking water.

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are a class of chemicals used globally to make common household and industrial products including cleaning products, legacy firefighting foams, textiles and paper and packaging products. As a result, most people living in developed nations have some PFAS in their body.

The Government will provide alternative drinking water supplies to those people in the Mission Creek catchment area whose water supply will require further testing.

We understand the community will be concerned about the implications of this PFAS detection and how it may affect them. The Government is committed to working closely with the community to understand and respond to this issue and is taking every step to gather additional information.

We are arranging on-Island community briefing sessions with PFAS experts this week, to discuss the issue in more detail and respond to any initial questions and concerns. Drop in sessions will be held on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 December between 9am and 2pm at Number 11 Quality Row. 

If you have questions or would like further information, we encourage you to attend an information session or contact NIPFAS@infrastructure.gov.au. For further information on PFAS, please go to www.pfas.gov.au and www.health.gov.au/pfas.

Contact: media@infrastructure.gov.au | 1300 732 749