Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Update on PFAS detection on Norfolk Island

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development's environmental investigations following the detection of elevated PFAS levels in the Mission Creek catchment area are now under way and making good progress.

The CSIRO's Norfolk Island Water Resource Assessment project scope was expanded to ensure sampling and testing commenced as soon as possible. CSIRO conducted some rapid testing of a number of properties within the Mission Creek catchment on 21 to 23 December, with a focus on drinking water, specifically taps and tanks on the properties, along with some bores.

Those samples have been returned to accredited laboratories for analysis. The Department will be able to provide advice to those properties in the catchment that have already been identified as having potentially elevated levels. The data collected will also form part of the whole-of-island assessment. It is anticipated these results will be available in the last fortnight of January.

Consultants Senversa have been engaged to undertake the full detailed environmental investigation to determine the precise nature and extent of PFAS contamination and the potential exposure pathways for people and the environment. Senversa has deep experience in delivering these complex PFAS investigations for Defence at mainland sites. The investigation will inform future action to mitigate risks.

Senversa will be on island on 13–24 January to collect a range of samples. These samples will then be returned to the mainland for laboratory analysis, after which the results will be analysed and interpreted by Senversa. During the sample collection, there will be a community information session to provide details on the investigation process, including likely timelines for further information, and to answer questions. The details of this session, including timing and location, will be provided next week.

This initial sampling will include a range of sources across the island. Water testing conducted on private property will only occur if consent is provided. The interpretation of the data collected through this initial analysis will drive more detailed health advice, while also determining if further investigation is required and, if so, what that would involve.

The Department is working with Norfolk Island Regional Council and Senversa to remove the remaining stocks of legacy fire-fighting foam containing PFAS off island for destruction.

The Department thanks the community for its measured approach and engagement on this issue and the Government's response. The community information sessions which took place on December 18 and 19 were well attended and community members and stakeholders appreciated the chance to speak with the Defence, Environment and Health experts familiar with PFAS.

Property owners in the catchment area who have received water-use surveys are encouraged to fill them out and return them as soon as possible – they will greatly assist in the further investigations. We encourage property owners to work with us, CSIRO and Senversa in this comprehensive sampling process so we can give you more specific information as soon as possible.

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