The NT Fire and Rescue Service (NTFRS) will initiate an environmental audit program in the form of a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI) at the Alice Springs Fire Station after soil sampling undertaken by the Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security (DEPWS) showed elevated levels of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at the site.
While the levels of PFAS at the Alice Springs Fire Station warrant further investigation, there is no immediate public health risk or cause for concern for nearby residents.
It is important to note there are no detectable levels of PFAS in the Alice Springs town water supplied by Power and Water and the water is safe to drink.
The DSI will evaluate the type, amount, distribution and mobility of contaminants and wastes present in the environment.
DEPWS director of environmental operations, Peter Vasel, said the most well-known PFAS are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS).
These chemicals are very stable and do not break down in the environment. They can persist for a long time both in the environment and in humans.
“PFAS chemicals were universally used in firefighting foams because of their superior fire suppression capabilities,” Mr Vasel said.
“However, the NTFRS moved away from using firefighting foams containing PFAS over a decade ago, so what the soil sampling shows is just how persistent PFAS is in the environment.
“Soil samples taken from the Alice Springs fire station grounds returned PFOS concentrations above the human health investigation levels as outlined in the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP) 2.0 here, which is why the NTFRS has now been required to carry out a mandatory environmental audit program in the form of a DSI within the next 6 months.”
Mr Vasel said water sampling undertaken by the Power and Water Corporation showed that PFAS levels are below detectable levels and that the town’s drinking water remains safe to drink.
Northern Territory Government officials will doorknock nearby residents today to answer any questions they might have about the DSI process.