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Firefighting foam management policy

In 2016, the Queensland Government implemented the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam–Operational Policy (the Firefighting Foam Policy) to guide end users and suppliers on the need to properly manage the use of all firefighting foams to comply with the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

A particular focus was the need to phase out fluorinated foams (AFFF, FP, FFFP, etc.) by 2019 with some approved extensions for special circumstances. Fluorinated foams contain toxic, highly persistent and bio-accumulative PFAS compounds (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). Substantial progress has been made in cooperation with industry towards transitioning from PFAS foams to safer non-persistent alternatives and to ensure that all firefighting foams are properly managed so as not to pose a significant risk to human health, environmental and socio-economic values.

Anyone who handles, transports, disposes, stores, uses, or releases firefighting foams in Queensland must meet the standards set out in the Queensland Government's Firefighting Foam policy (PDF, 1.5 MB) .

The policy came into effect on 7 July 2019, with amendments approved on 11 October 2021.

Environmental concerns

No firefighting foam is environmentally friendly and all need to be managed properly. All foams have potential adverse effects, with risks that are specific to the foam type, situation and location. Depending on the foam type and composition, the chemicals used can have short and long-term impacts on biota, soils and waterways and other values through their persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity and oxygen demand.

All reasonable effort should be made to prevent their release to the environment, particularly waterways. Read more information on persistent chemicals within some firefighting foams.

Requirements for foam users

If you have firefighting foam on-site in Queensland, you need to ensure you are in compliance with the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam policy (PDF, 1.5 MB) , and have appropriate firefighting foam products and risk management measure in place.

To comply with the firefighting foam policy you need to:

  • Have ceased use of PFAS firefighting foam and have transitioned to a non-persistent alternative unless you have an approval under the Queensland Environmental Protection Act 1994 for the interim use of a PFAS foam until a suitable alternative becomes available. For more information on how to identify such foams, see the Quick Guide to Firefighting Foam – Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 102KB).
  • Implement reasonable and practicable measures to prevent firefighting foams from entering the environment via a spill or incident response, e.g. containment bunds around foam storage and use areas.
  • Have a PFAS foam waste disposal plan in place for management and disposal of PFAS foam wastes. For more information see the waste disposal plan advisory (PDF, 165KB). For non-persistent foam, standard waste disposal requirements and practices apply.

If you have questions or concerns about complying with the policy, email the Queensland Government at pollutionhotline@des.qld.gov.au.

The Queensland Government will monitor compliance with the firefighting foam policy at business facilities where Queensland laws apply.

Amended Foam Policy 2021

The 2016 Foam Policy had a three-year transition period to 2019 for the general phase out of PFAS foams with interim provisions for managing risk over that time and requirements for general foam management.  In October 2021 amendments to the firefighting Foam Policy were approved, these included:

  • Removal of redundant PFAS transition provisions, timelines and references that no longer apply.
  • No change to PFAS limits for C6-Pure foams long-chain (≥C7) PFAS content or contamination.
  • Updated PFAS limits for contamination of new fluorine-free foam by PFAS residues that remain in existing systems to include both short and long-chain PFAS in line with new research and the Stockholm Convention.
  • New simplified PFAS analysis (TOF-total organic fluorine) for first-pass testing to assess or certify that PFAS contamination of foam is below set limits.
  • Clarification of analysis methods (including refined TOP Assay for foams), their results and application to the Foam Policy provisions.
  • Inclusion of technical references to new research results and explanations relevant to risk assessment of PFAS.
  • Deferment to new external standards for PFAS environmental issues under the PFAS NEMP (National Environmental Management Plan).
  • Non-persistent firefighting foam uses, management measures, waste disposal and releases considerations.
  • PFAS foam wastes disposal considerations and requirements under the Queensland regulated waste provisions.
  • Acute toxicity reference scale to enable end users to meaningfully assess the short-term toxicity data in safety data sheets.

Explanations and advice within the 2016 Foam Policy Explanatory Notes (PDF, 3.1 MB) remain relevant and can provide further guidance.

Transition to policy compliance 2016–2019

There was a three-year transition to the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam—Operational Policy between 2016 and 2019, which included the following actions:

Industry education program

In 2018, the Queensland Government launched an industry program to educate operators on the environmental risks associated with PFAS containing firefighting foams and support their transition under the policy.

During 2018 and 2019, environmental officers across Queensland conducted more 150 industry site visits to provide educational support to assist operators in adopting more sustainable products and practices.

Read the industry education program summary report (PDF, 827KB).

Industry survey

A voluntary industry survey was conducted from February to May 2017 to determine the status of PFAS firefighting foam stocks in Queensland. The survey was sent to 992 recipients and a total of 468 responses were received.

The information helped inform decisions on implementing the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam—Operational Policy.

Read the survey results summary (PDF, 694KB).

Industry seminar

In February 2017, an industry seminar was held in Brisbane for end-users of firefighting foam, and their service providers and consultants.

Featuring Australian and international subject-expert speakers, the seminar provided information on best-practice in the use of firefighting foam and state-wide regulatory obligations.

It covered environmental management, foam types and use, risk assessment, site contamination, sampling and assessment, remediation technologies, regulation and policy, waste management, case studies and more.