AN independent expert from Macquarie University will review the Environment Protection Authority’s handling of contamination at Williamtown, Environment minister Mark Speakman has announced.
It follows reports in the Newcastle Herald that the EPA, along with the Department of Defence, knew two years ago of toxic chemicals from a fire fighting foam leaking from the RAAF base at Williamtown, but did not tell the community until early September.
Professor Mark Taylor has been asked to deliver an interim report by November 30 with any recommendations necessary regarding the EPA’s handling to date of the contamination at Williamtown.
He would then make recommendations for both the EPA’s past and future management of contaminated sites involving the chemicals- perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate- by January 31.
As well, he will examine the EPA’s implementation of findings of a 2014 Auditor-General’s report that was critical of its management contaminated sites.
Mr Speakman reiterated the state’s Chief Health Scientist, Professor Mary O’Kane, has been appointed to lead an expert panel involving agencies and experts to advise the government of any potential risk of the contamination and what has to happen next.
‘‘It is critical that the community has confidence in our environmental regulation, and understands that public health is at the forefront of any actions we take,” Mr Speakman said.
“While at this stage I’m advised that any risk to human health from contamination from the Williamtown RAAF base is low, the NSW government is taking a precautionary approach to this issue to ensure any risk is properly identified and managed.’’