Firefighting drills may have contaminated RAAF Base Amberley and surrounding areas.
Firefighting drills may have contaminated RAAF Base Amberley and surrounding areas. Contributed

Is RAAF Base Amberley contaminated?

AS DEFENCE meets with the community of Oakey today to reveal the latest results of the Human Health Risk Assessment at their Army Aviation Centre, Ipswich residents are left to ask - what about Amberley?

In March, Oakey Army Aviation Centre was listed on the state's environmental register after it was discovered perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) used in fire-fighting foams had leached into the ground and contaminated a portion of the ground water supply.

Another similar case in Williamtown, NSW, prompted concerns further defence bases could also face the same contamination.

The PFOS and PFOA chemicals, which do not break down in the environment, were used in RAAF fire-fighting foams from 1970 until the mid-2000s.

While Defence claims there are no globally accepted studies showing exposure harms human health, many disagree and believe PFOS and PFOA chemicals can cause kidney cancer, thyroid disease and pose a risk to unborn babies.

RELATED: RAAF Amberley under investigation for contamination

Recently, experts in the Australian Environmental Health Standing Committee considered relevant international scientific evidence and found there was currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFOS and PFOA caused adverse human health effects.

However, based on the evidence from animal studies, the committee also advised that potential adverse health effects could not be excluded.

A Senate inquiry was conducted into the contamination of other Australian Defence Force sites from fire-fighting foams, including RAAF Base Amberley.

Preliminary sampling was conducted on the base earlier this year.

The Ipswich base is now classed as a Category One site, which indicates large quantities or routine and frequent historical use of legacy aqueous film forming foams (AFFF).

Defence is yet to reveal the results and until they do, Ipswich residents are left in limbo, unsure whether they have been exposed to chemicals leeched through the base's groundwater, surface water, sediment and soil.

"Once the preliminary sampling program results are available, Defence will inform the community about the results and Defence's response," a spokesperson said.

"The community consultation will provide information on the progress of the investigation and the next steps."

Defence will host a consultation with the Ipswich community later this month where they will share information about the issue of contamination "on and in the vicinity of RAAF Base Amberley".

A spokesperson said a more detailed investigation of RAAF Base Amberley was expected to begin in the first half of 2017.

When asked whether this investigation could be moved forward, a Defence spokesperson said due to the "unique characteristics of each site and the complexities of implementing a detailed investigation", it could not.

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