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PFAS

PFAS

Frequently asked questions about PFAS and drinking water supplies in north-east Victoria.

PFAS are compounds used in a variety of applications. They are emerging contaminants which North East Water regularly tests for in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Yarrawonga and Wahgunyah. The PFAS sampling program has shown no levels of concern, with results well below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Below are frequently asked questions and answers about PFAS and local drinking water supplies.

What are PFAS?

Per-and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of artificial chemicals that have been used historically in firefighting foams and other industrial and consumer products. Common PFAS types are perfluorooctane sulphonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

PFAS chemicals resist degradation in the environment and have properties that allow them to move easily through their surroundings, are environmentally persistent and can accumulate in food chains.

What are PFAS used for?

PFAS have hundreds of manufacturing and industrial applications. They have been widely used since the 1950s to make products more stain-resistant, non-stick or waterproof.
Examples include:

  • cookware
  • food packaging
  • furniture and carpets
  • shoes, clothes and mattresses
  • shampoos
  • floor polishes
  • textiles and leather products

PFAS have been used in fire-fighting foam at airports, fire training bases and other places where petroleum-product-based fires are a risk.

They have also had widespread use in many other industries including metal-plating, aviation, automotive, construction, electronics and photography.

Are PFAS still used?

There are national efforts to restrict and reduce non-essential uses of PFAS.

The Australian Government’s National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) continues to review the use of PFAS in Australia and regularly provides updates to its alerts regarding these chemicals.

 More information

How does PFAS effect human health?

For information regarding the effects of PFAS on human health, please refer to the Commonwealth Department of Health website.

More information

Has PFAS been found in the north-east Victorian environment?

PFAS have been found in groundwater, surface water and soils in many urban and rural areas due to their wide-spread use in everyday household items and their persistence in the environment. PFAS have been used extensively across Australia. In north-east Victoria, Defence bases and fire training facilities used PFAS regularly in the past.

What are the results of recent PFAS testing at the Defence base in Wodonga?

The Department of Defence has recently released results of a national review into PFAS on, and in the vicinity of, some of its bases around Australia including locally at Bandiana.

Find the report here

The Department of Defence has set up a PFAS hotline on 1800 365 414, where people can receive the latest information about environmental investigations.

Does North East Water test for PFAS?

The Corporation conducts routine risk-based sampling and testing for PFAS in areas where there has been historic or probable use of the compounds. These areas include Wodonga, Wangaratta, Yarrawonga and Wahgunyah.

Testing is conducted on source water supplies and treated drinking water. All samples are collected and tested by an independent NATA-accredited laboratory.

What are the PFAS guidelines when it comes to drinking water?

In Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services administers the safe drinking water regulatory framework and adopts the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. Under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for the sum of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorohexane sulphonate (PFHxS), the health guideline value is 0.07µg/L and for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) the health guideline value is 0.56 µg/L. These guideline values are designed to be protective over a lifetime.

What are the results of North East Water’s sampling program?

North East Water’s sampling program has shown no levels of concern. Sampling results for PFAS have been well below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).

View sampling results

Is the reticulated drinking water supply safe to drink?

The drinking water supplied by North East Water meets the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and is safe to drink.

What is North East Water doing to ensure its water supplies are safe from PFAS contamination?

North East Water has an extensive ‘catchment to tap’ water quality monitoring program in place. As part of this program source water and treated water are routinely sampled at select locations and analysed for PFAS compounds. To date, there have been no levels of concern, or any PFAS present are below the level of detection.

Can PFAS be removed from drinking water?

Routine testing shows PFAS is not a risk to local drinking water supplies; however if levels were detected over the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, treatment options are available to remove the compounds.

Where can I find North East Water’s water quality testing results?

Results specifically for PFAS are updated monthly and can be found in the link below.

PFAS water quality results

General water quality testing results are updated monthly and can be found via the button below.

General water quality results

Where can I find more information?

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE

PFAS website related to Bandiana

PFAS hotline: 1800 365 414 for the latest information regarding environmental investigations.


DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

PFAS website
PFAS fact sheet


ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AGENCY

PFAS website


NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS NOTIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT SCHEME

PFAS fact sheet

NATIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Australian Drinking Water Guidelines

NORTH EAST WATER

Results specifically for PFAS are updated monthly and can be found here
General water quality testing results are updated monthly and can be found here
Latest news can be found here