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Fiskville operations suspended
All operations at CFA’s Fiskville training facility have been suspended as a precaution until further notice after chemical residues were detected in large tanks used to store mains water for firefighter training.
The residues from firefighting foams used until 2007 contain PFOS, a type of perfluoro chemical found in everyday products such as make-up, shaving cream and paper packaging.
CFA CEO Michael Wootten said further testing of all water, including drinking water, would be conducted at Fiskville over coming days.
“As a precaution, the only prudent course of action is to suspend all operations until further testing is completed and the results delivered,” Mr Wootten said.
“However, the strong advice from one of Australia’s pre-eminent toxicologist is that any risk to the health of people at Fiskville is likely to be very low.”
He said the toxicologist would prepare an assessment of the likely health risk over coming days.
He said staff working at the site had been informed of the precautionary measures and CFA would support them through this process.
Mr Wootten said testing of the dams and lakes at Fiskville had recently been expanded to large tanks used to store mains water for firefighter training.
“Since 2012, mains water has been used on the Practical Area for Drills (PAD) which has been stored in two large tanks. Recent tests of the tanks show the presence of these residues,” he said.
He said the presence of the residues in four dams previously used to store water for firefighter training and in Lake Fiskville were identified by Professor Rob Joy in his report following an investigation of the site in 2011-12.
Those dams are no longer in use and major remediation works were completed at the site in July 2014 to minimise the risk of off-site flows from these water bodies.
The dam water and sediment will be the subject of a planned remediation in the near future.
Mr Wootten said the advice of a toxicologist on the impacts of perflouro chemicals on humans was:
- People can be exposed to PFOS through eating food and drinking water, and through the use of consumer products. PFOS is widely used in the human environment, and most people have low levels of PFOS in their blood. PFOS can remain in the body for some time.
- PFOS enters the blood and remains for some time. At elevated concentrations it may change blood cholesterol and blood lipids, which are indicators of risk for cardiovascular disease.
- There are also many lifestyle factors that can affect a person’s blood cholesterol and lipid levels.
- The US Environmental Protection Agency says “human studies to date are insufficient to determine with a sufficient degree of certainty that the effects are either exposure-related or adverse”.