In December 2016 NSW Mines Rescue (Mines Rescue) voluntarily entered the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) investigation program assessing the legacy of perand poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) use across NSW as a precautionary measure.
Following the initial preliminary sampling at Hunter Valley Mines Rescue station in April 2017, which confirmed traces of PFAS in the soil, further testing was undertaken by environmental consultant GHD in line with EPA recommendations and guidelines. The primary purpose of the testing was to identify potential pathways to human exposure and sensitive environmental receptors by identifying the presence and extent of PFAS in ground and surface water locations.
The test results have been received and analysed.
Matthew Fellowes, General Manager of Mines Rescue and Regulation & Compliance confirmed that 19 tests were completed; 12 on site, 7 off site.
He said ‘The second stage of investigations has confirmed the presence of PFAS in some locations on and off site at levels which are higher than current guidelines. However, the overall assessment of risk to human health and to environmental receptors is still considered to be low.
‘This is due largely to the presence of municipal drinking water in all nearby areas to the station and the unlikelihood that any presence of PFAS within ground water, surface water, soil or sediment on or off site is being ingested by humans.
‘It is important that our surrounding site neighbours and the broader Singleton community are reminded that more than 90 per cent of exposure to PFAS is through ingestion of water and food/animals which have been exposed to PFAS-contaminated water; which is extremely unlikely at or from our Hunter Valley Mines Rescue site.
‘However; we will be doing some further monitoring to check wet weather and seasonal variations. This 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.’
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 for the Hunter Valley site, or any of the affected Mines Rescue sites, whilst further testing occurs.