News Item

Gold Coast Airport 2016 Preliminary Site Investigation

15 Nov 2016

In July, Airservices engaged an independent environmental consultant, GHD Pty Ltd, to conduct a preliminary site investigation at Gold Coast Airport.

The purpose of the investigation was to identify potential historical Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination at the airport through targeted soil, ground water and surface water testing to establish the presence of contamination across the airport and inform further work, if needed.

Overall, the results show low levels of PFOS and PFOA at the airport boundary:

    • All samples taken from around the airport boundary showed PFAS levels were below the enHealth interim soil and ground water guidelines for the protection of human health[1].
    • Surface water samples taken from the Cobaki Broadwater were below the detection limit for PFAS i.e. were not detected.
    • Samples taken near the fire training ground and the fire station exceeded the drinking water and recreational screening thresholds, however there are no drinking water sources in the vicinity of these facilities.
    • The full testing results can viewed on the Airservices website www.airservicesaustralia.com/environment/firefightingfoam/use-of-fire-fighting-foam/

About per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
PFAS are a group of manufactured chemical compounds that are used in a wide range of products including common household products such as non-stick cookware, food packaging and stain resistant textiles.
They are also used in some fire fighting foams—specifically aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which have the ability to spread over the surface of hydrocarbon-based liquids. AFFF has been used for fire suppression in many industries including petrochemical, aviation and public fire services.

Whether PFASs cause health problems in humans is currently unknown, but on current evidence from studies in animals the potential for adverse health effects cannot be excluded. For more information see guidance materials from the Australian Health Protection Principle Committee available from the Commonwealth Department of Health – http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-publicat-environ.htm

Use of fire fighting foam at Gold Coast Airport
Airservices does not currently use fire fighting foam containing PFAS at Gold Coast Airport, and stopped using fire fighting foam containing PFAS as an active ingredient in 2010.

The primary function of Airservices aviation rescue fire fighting service is to save lives. This requires the use of fire fighting foam to meet international regulations. More on Airservices use of fire fighting foam is located at www.airservicesaustralia.com/environment/firefightingfoam/use-of-fire-fighting-foam/

Next steps
Airservices has shared the latest results with relevant Commonwealth and State environmental and health regulators and Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd and we will continue to work with these stakeholders in taking a risk-based approach to responsibly managing PFAS concerns at the Gold Coast Airport.

We are committed to providing relevant information to the community on the progress of investigations in a coordinated and consistent way to ensure any community concerns are able to be addressed by the relevant authorities should questions arise.

Future investigation
Given the Gold Coast Airport’s unique geographic location being situated across two states (NSW and QLD), Airservices is in discussions with relevant agencies from these jurisdictions as well as the airport regulator, the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD).

While the testing results on the airport boundary indicate potentially low risk, Airservices is working with relevant agencies to determine appropriate next steps which may include the option of further testing to confirm this. As these details are resolved Airservices will work with the relevant authorities to ensure the community is appropriately engaged

[1]Note these are not drinking water sources

Further information is available at the following links:

Airservices: http://www.airservicesaustralia.com/environment/firefightingfoam/

Gold Coast Airport: http://www.goldcoastairport.com.au/community/pfass-coast-airport/

Department of Health: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-publicat-environ.htm

New South Wales Environment Protection Authority: http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/MediaInformation/pfcinvestigation.htm or the Environment Line on 131 555.

Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/investigation-pfas/