PFAS firefighting foam ban and phase out

In July 2016, the Queensland Government introduced a Policy for the management of firefighting foam, including the phase out of firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals.

The focus of the policy is primarily industrial sites that hold stocks of fluorinated firefighting foam for use in an emergency situation, such as industrial ports and bulk fuel storage facilities.

The policy also covers firefighting foams in general and the characteristics of these foams that could be harmful to the environment. It is important to remember that all firefighting foams have associated risks which must be managed appropriately.

The Department of Environment and Science (the department) will monitor compliance with this policy at such business facilities, where Queensland laws apply.

Message from the department

I am an industry operator that uses firefighting foam on my site – what do I do?

If you’re a Queensland operator (such as a large fuel storage terminal, refinery, port, airport etc) that uses firefighting foam you need to read the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam—Operational Policy (PDF, 276KB), understand your obligations and adopt any updated firefighting foam products and practices by July 2019.

Some of things you will need to consider in line with the policy requirements include:

  • What foam product am I currently using, and what should I be using?
  • What are my procedures and processes, and do they need to be updated?
  • In the event of a foam release, are my containment measures adequate?
  • Do I have a current and adequate waste disposal plan?
  • How can I adopt best practice in my business and meet my obligations?

One of the key points is foams containing any long-chain persistent chemicals need to be replaced.

In particular, PFOS legacy foams must be removed from service as soon as possible, and other long-chain legacy fluorinated foams must be phased out as soon as practicable.

There are also other requirements relating to the handling, transport, storage, use, release, waste treatment and disposal of firefighting foams in the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam—Operational Policy (PDF, 276KB).

For more information, please refer to the following resources:

Main changes under Policy:

  • PFOS legacy foams must be removed from service as soon as possible.
  • Long-chain legacy fluorinated foams (≥C7) must be phased-out as soon as practicable within the implementation timeline.
  • Interim containment and control measures for long-chain legacy foams must be implemented while being phased out.
  • Alternative short-chain C6-PURE foam (≤C6 = 99.5% of PFAS) use is acceptable but all firewater and wastes must be fully contained in impervious bunding or sumps.
  • No discharge of fluorinated organic foams of any sort is allowable directly to the environment.
  • PFOS plus PFHxS contamination of replacement foam stocks limit of 10 mg/kg (0.001%) in concentrate.
  • PFOA, PFOA precursors or higher homologues (≥C7) contamination of replacement foam stocks limit of 50 mg/kg (0.005%) in concentrate.
  • All fluorinated organic wastes must be disposed of by high-temperature destruction (contaminated soils are dealt with outside of the Policy).
  • Non-persistent foam wastes, including fluorine-free foam, must be contained where possible. Essential uses and emergency incidents where there are direct releases to the environment are tolerable provided that all reasonable and practicable measures are taken to minimise environmental harm. E.g. roadside fires and spills, on-water incidents in ports or marinas.
  • *Note that foams described as ‘C6-based’ are unlikely to be C6 pure and probably contain significant concentrations of PFOA, PFOA precursors or higher homologues.

Transition to policy

Industry education program

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

Throughout the year, environmental officers across Queensland will be conducting pre-planned industry site visits to provide educational support to assist operators in adopting more sustainable products and practices by July 2019.

Industry survey

A voluntary industry survey was also conducted in early 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 has helped inform decisions on implementing the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam—Operational Policy.

Summary of results

  • Total volume of firefighting foam reported – approximately 425 tonnes.
  • Industries most likely to store foam involve bulk fuel and chemical storage.
  • Most common type of foam reported – Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) and alcohol resistant variants.
  • 29% of sites identified that transition to a policy compliant foam is required.
  • 23% of sites are unsure of whether transition is required.

Read the survey results summary (PDF, 694KB)

Industry seminar

In 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.

Key contacts

Contact the PFAS Project Team if you have enquiries about the Environmental Management of Firefighting Foam—Operational Policy.