RESIDENTS around the Williamtown RAAF Base and Newcastle Airport have been warned to take precautions after the discovery of chemicals in some water and fish in the area.
They have been advised not to drink bore water, or to eat fish caught in the nearby area or eggs from backyard chickens after the discovery of legacy fire-fighting chemicals during testing by the Department of Defence around Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove.
Commercial and recreational fishing and the oyster harvest have also been suspended in the area for up to a month while authorities investigate the discovery.
The Department of Primary Industry and the NSW Food Authority will begin sampling fish and oysters for testing today.
Plans are underway for a public meeting and letterbox drops to keep residents informed.
The chemicals in question, Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), were used in fire-fighting foams at RAAF Williamtown in fire-fighting training and operations before a change in Defence policy issued in 2008.
PFOS and PFOA are stable chemicals that do not break down in the environment and persist for a long time.
Whether PFOS or PFOA cause adverse health effects in humans is currently unknown, but on current evidence, the potential for adverse health effects cannot be excluded.
In a statement released last night through AAP, the NSW government said that while at this stage any risk to human health appeared to be low, it was taking a precautionary approach to its preliminary advice and was working with the Department of Defence to determine the extent and potential impact of the chemicals.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was working with the Department of Defence as well as NSW Health, the Department of Primary Industries, NSW Food Authority and Hunter Water to assess and confirm the nature of any potential risk of the contamination and to develop an appropriate response.
Potentially affected bores are isolated to an area covering part of the Tomago and Stockton sandbeds and there is no risk to the town water supply.
NSW Government agencies will continue to assess the situation and undertake a comprehensive health risk assessment and testing of bore water.
For more information contact: Environment Line 131 555 (who can direct your call).
For specific health inquiries – 1300 066 055