Three Years Waiting for Leadership on PFAS

Residents in Williamtown, Salt Ash and Fullerton Cove have quietly marked the third anniversary since the contamination of their properties by Defence was announced publicly.

On 4 September 2015, residents were informed via newspaper headlines that their properties, their businesses and their families had been exposed to a legacy of PFAS contamination emanating from RAAF Base Williamtown.

In the past three years, three Prime Ministers, three Defence Ministers, three Assistant Ministers of Defence, two Premiers, two Parliamentary Inquiries, four different EPA-issued red-zone maps, two botched health studies and a failed compensation package presented to the federal Cabinet have failed to progress this issue. Even now, contamination continues to flow from the Base.

Whilst the Federal government has played musical chairs, families in the red zone have had their lives turned upside down through a range of continuing issues: - The stressful question mark surrounding poor health outcomes; - Plummeting property values and an inability to sell or refinance; - Frustration at Defence’s failure to stop contamination leaving the Base; - Approval of a sand mine in the red zone; - Loss of business revenue for small businesses in the red zone; and - A loss of confidence in state and federal governments and their responses.

Residents are currently engaged in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defence with hearings expected in 2019.

Meanwhile, the Berejiklian Government has continued to ignore the community’s pleas to ban PFAS in NSW, with Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton once again shifting all responsibility to her federal counterpart.

Quotes attributable to Kate Washington MP

“The past three years have changed the lives of people living in the red zone. Through no fault of their own, they have lost options for their future - trapped on properties they can no - longer use for the purpose they were purchased, facing the uncertainty of unknown health consequences for themselves and their loved ones.

“Three years ago, we hoped that there would have been solutions offered by now. It’s difficult to fathom that so much time has passed with so little action taken that’s resulted in any benefit to the affected residents.”

Quotes attributable to Meryl Swanson MP

“The Federal government has been playing musical chairs, focussed on itself rather than doing its job, while families in the red zone have been left with ongoing heartache and no solutions.

“While residents suffer, the revolving door of Prime Ministers and Premiers has left no one accountable for solving this mess and giving residents options.”

This item was distributed as a media release on Tuesday 4 September 2018.


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