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Queensland Fire and Emergency Services sites

In mid-2016, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) tested soil and water held in the in-ground water tanks at the Enoggera, Cairns, Rockhampton, Southport, Yeppoon, Townsville and Oakey fire stations.

In late 2016, QFES also tested the water held in the in-ground water tanks at the following fire stations: Cairns South, Forrest Beach, Ayr, Home Hill, Mt Isa, Airlie Beach, Proserpine, Dysart, Mackay, Sarina, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Noosa Heads, Caloundra, Charleville, Arana Hills, Annerley, Windsor, Roma St, Kemp Place and the Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy (QCESA) at Whyte Island in Brisbane’s east.

Testing was conducted to identify the concentration of a range of PFAS, including PerFluoro-Octane Sulfonate (PFOS) and PerFluoro-Octanoic Acid (PFOA), in the in-ground water tanks at these locations.

The results from the testing were to be used to inform proactive actions by QFES.

The test results were compared against the health-based guidance values for PFAS that were developed for the Commonwealth Department of Health by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). They were published in April 2017 and offer guidance values for drinking water and recreational water contact (i.e. swimming, bathing).

Water held in the in-ground water tanks has not been used for drinking or recreational purposes. The in-ground water tanks have been used in the past to recycle water used in training and surface water run-off. There are no specific health-based guidance values for PFAS contained in recycled water used for these purposes. However, the health-based guidance values for recreational water use have been used as a guide for testing purposes.

The table below summarises the test results compared against the health-based guidance values for PFAS for recreational water use.

Results

  • Column one (Fire station) shows the location tested.
  • Column two (PFOA) is the PFOA concentration, which shows no locations exceeded the Commonwealth Health recreational water guideline of 5.6 µg/L.
  • Column three (PFOS) is the combined PFOS and Perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS) concentration, with the shading indicating where the result exceeded the Commonwealth Health recreational water guideline of 0.7 µg/L.
Health-based guideline
Type of waterPFOA (µg/L)PFOS (∑(PFOS + PFHxS) (µg/L)
Drinking water0.560.07
Recreational water5.60.7
Fire stationPFOA (µg/L)
5.6 µg/L
PFOS (∑(PFOS + PFHxS) (µg/L)
0.7 µg/L
Gladstone1.441.9
Mackay0.4010.3
Enoggera0.3310.5
Proserpine0.0110.9
Cairns0.121.29
Cairns South0.0441.22
Queensland Combined Emergency Services Academy (QCESA) WW1 (Brisbane)0.0581.28
QCESA WW2 (Brisbane)0.0391.08
QCESA WW3 (Brisbane)0.0451.32
QCESA SS1 (Brisbane)0.0742.9
QCESA SS2 (Brisbane)0.0834.3
QCESA SS3 (Brisbane)0.0913.7
QCESA SS5 (Brisbane)0.0712.91
Kemp Place0.0520.51
Ayr0.0310.121
Caloundra0.0130.48
Bundaberg0.0250.179
Maryborough0.0190.091
Noosa Heads0.0110.264
Home Hill<0.0070.097
Townsville<0.0070.083
Mt Isa<0.0070.024
Forest Beach<0.007<0.01
Airlie Beach<0.0070.097
Dysart<0.0070.075
Sarina<0.0070.025
Rockhampton Pit 10.0360.202
Rockhampton Pit 20.0190.123
Arana Hills0.0560.124
Southport0.0120.163
QCESA SS4 (Brisbane)0.0120.34
Charleville0.0100.052
Windsor0.0220.061
Annerley0.0100.050
Roma Street<0.007<0.01

It is uncertain if there are any health impacts from exposure to PFAS. However, QFES has proactively managed concerns about Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF).

  • Legacy stocks of AFFF have been identified, collated and appropriately disposed of.
  • All in-ground water tanks at all fire stations have been decommissioned by appropriately disposing of any contents, filling the tanks with gravel and then sealing them so they cannot be used again.
  • The QFES AFFF health program is voluntary and has been available free of charge to current and former members of the QFES workforce – both paid and volunteer – who may have come in contact with AFFF during their service with QFES. It includes consultation with an independent health practitioner and, if desired, associated blood screening. While this screening does not provide definitive guidance about an individual’s health, it provides a baseline for future reference as further research is conducted on the health and environmental impacts of AFFF.