Residents may sue Defence

Fullerton Cove
Fullerton Cove

INDIVIDUALS and businesses affected by toxic fire fighting foam around the Williamtown RAAF base may be entitled to bring negligence claims against the Department of Defence, a class action specialist believes.

Shine Lawyers' class actions department manager Rebecca Jancauskas said the department had a duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure those within close vicinity of its Williamtown base were not exposed to harm as a result of its operations.

State government authorities issued a warning to residents near the RAAF base last Friday not to drink bore water, eat fish caught nearby or eggs from backyard chickens. A ban has been placed on oyster farming around the Tilligerry Peninsula.

Ms Jancauskas said communities had a right to feel confident in the safety of their water supplies and that local produce was not contaminated with toxic chemicals.

"If defence were aware of the dangers of the foam and failed to take appropriate action in response to the risk they may be found liable for the harm caused and damages may be awarded to those affected for the loss suffered," she said.

The chemicals, perfluoro-octane sulfonate and perfluoro-octanoic acid, are from a fire-fighting foam previously used at the base, which leaked into ground and surface water.

The EPA had known of the contamination on the base since 2012, but says it only learnt that the contamination had moved outside the base two weeks ago.

The results of fish and oysters samples taken from around Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove should be known later this month.

Fishing closures will remain in place until authorities are satisfied sufficient samples have been taken.