Call for livestock bans over Penshurst spill

CFA clean up order.
CFA clean up order.

Two properties near the Country Fire Authority’s training facility at Penshurst are no longer suitable for livestock production because of contamination from chemicals used in firefighter training, a report to the authority says.

The report also recommended that several groundwater bores on properties near the training facility either not be used for any purpose or not for drinking water because of contamination by Per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) used in firefighting foams.

It also found there was “a low risk” that PFAS could affect a groundwater bore that supplied water to the Penshurst township. 

It recommended a risk assessment be done before there was any increase in the pumping rate from the bore.

The report was done by an environmental auditor as part of a clean up notice for the Penshurst site imposed on the CFA by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015.

The EPA served the order after two rural households in the Penshurst area were found to have higher than acceptable levels of PFAS of groundwater in 2015. Penshurst’s town water was not affected.

The latest report from the environmental auditor said PFAS had been found at low levels at Murdum Creek, McIntyres Creek, Muddy Creek and an unnamed creek and as far as the Grange Burn creek, 45 kilometres north-west of Penshurst.

It found the PFAS levels above drinking water guidelines detected 45 kms away were likely to be from the urban environments of Penshurst and Hamilton but those at Murdum Creek, 6.5kms from the Penshurst training facility, were likely to be from the training facility.

It said the southern portion of one property near the training facility should not be used for livestock and crop production and livestock production should be banned on all of another property.

It said the PFAS contamination was likely to have occurred when a dam at the facility overflowed during wet winter periods. Such overflows had been contained since August last year in temporary dams on-site, it said.

A CFA spokesperson said it had started improvement works and would work closely with neighbours and relevant government agencies to implement the report’s recommendations.