Testing undertaken at the NSW Mines Rescue (Mines Rescue) site at Lithgow has confirmed that, while there are detects of per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), the site poses a low risk to the community.
Matthew Fellowes, General Manager of Mines Rescue and Regulation & Compliance, confirmed that 30 tests were completed; 28 on site, 2 off site.
He said ‘It’s important to note that the presence of PFAS in the environment does not necessarily mean there is a human health risk.
‘While the levels of PFAS that we have detected at Lithgow are above the current guidelines, it’s also important to assess if there are any pathways that people might come into contact with the chemical.
‘90% of PFAS exposure is through ingestion of water and food. At Lithgow, the community around the station has access to reticulated drinking water and it’s unlikely that the PFAS within the ground water, surface water, soil or sediment, both on and off site, is ingested.
‘However, we will be doing some further monitoring to check whether wet weather and seasonal variations have an impact on the site. This will help us ensure that there is a full understanding around the potential movement of PFAS from the site.
‘This approach is in line with the EPA investigation process and the requirement to thoroughly research any other human health or environmental receptor pathways going off site.’
In December 2016, Mines Rescue voluntarily entered into the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) investigation program that assesses the legacy of PFAS use across NSW.
These investigations were undertaken by environmental consultant GHD in line with the EPA’s recommendations and guidelines.
A proposed approach and plan have been agreed to by the EPA and Coal Services. A timeframe has yet to be finalised for these further investigations.
No formal precautionary advice is required at this stage for the Lithgow site, or any of the affected Mines Rescue sites whilst further testing occurs.