PFC use investigation
The EPA is investigating the use of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in South Australia.
In light of recent activity around defence bases, the EPA has been working with the Department of Defence to advise them of their obligations under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to keep the community informed should they conduct any testing outside a Commonwealth Defence site.
Scientific testing to detect the presence of PFCs is developing and has become more progressive in recent years.
EPA tests have found PFCs in dolphin carcass and in fish in the Port River although dolphin numbers in the inner Port River have increased over the past 30 years, attributed to improvements in water quality.
It is therefore unlikely that the presence of PFCs is impacting on dolphin numbers.
More recent testing of marine life including fish, crabs and mussels has revealed the presence of PFCs in fish fillets but SA Health has advised they are below the maximum allowable concentrations and therefore safe to eat.
There have been concerns interstate where PFCs have been detected in groundwater and used for drinking but this is not the case in South Australia where ground water is not commonly used for drinking.
PFCs are from a family of commonly used chemicals that do not occur naturally and have been used in a range of industrial applications, with the highest proportion and potential for entry into the environment being through their use in firefighting foams for liquid fires.
PFCs are not banned but have been phased-out and replaced by chemicals that break down faster.
EPA Operations Director Science, Assessment and Planning, Peter Dolan said part of the EPA’s role is to monitor emerging chemicals of concern based on a likelihood of them entering the environment.
“Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are specific types of PFCs that can potentially be transported kilometres through water and air and can readily transfer between different substances such as soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater,” Mr Dolan said.
The EPA is conducting a stocktake of likely sources of PFCs in South Australia to enhance its understanding of its historical and current use, and distribution of the chemical.