How will the investigation program be run?

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is working with airport owners and managers to ensure a best practice investigation and management processes are followed at all civilian airport sites. All investigations will be undertaken in accordance with the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (ASC NEPM), and the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP).

You can read more about the ASC NEPM and this process on the National Environment Protection Council website, and the PFAS NEMP on the Australian PFAS Information Portal.

Airports are large and complex industrial sites that have varied environmental challenges, including managing contaminated lands. Airports and their tenants have responsibilities for ensuring environmental issues are managed in accordance with relevant environmental regulations that aim to minimise and mitigate any contamination risks.

Many airports have completed extensive investigations to date. The department will review previous investigations and work collaboratively with each airport to ensure a full site understanding of PFAS. This may include undertaking additional investigation works. The information gained from these investigations will be used to developed robust management plans at each airport to ensure any identified PFAS risks are adequately managed at source.

The program will be rolled out in stages. We have begun the pilot stage involving eight airports and this will inform the full rollout in late 2022.

Preliminary Site Investigation—First Investigation Stage Detailed Site Investigation—Second Investigation Stage Human Health and/or Ecological Risk Assessment—Final Investigation Stage Ongoing Monitoring—Management stage
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A preliminary site Investigation (PSI) includes a desktop historical review, site inspections and may include limited sampling to determine the potential for PFAS contamination.

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A detailed site Investigation includes sampling and analysis to identify the source and location of PFAS and if and where it has moved to. Depending on the outcome, there may be a health and/or ecological risk assessment.

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If the site evaluation identifies any contamination and possible exposure for people, plants or animals to PFAS levels above relevant guidelines, a risk assessment will be undertaken.

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The PFAS Airports Investigation Program will use the findings of the investigations to support airports in developing a tailored management plan for the best approach to monitor and manage contamination at affected sites.