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.
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.
- food packaging
- furniture and carpets
- shoes, clothes and mattresses
- 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.
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.
For information regarding the effects of PFAS on human health, please refer to the Commonwealth Department of Health website.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The drinking water supplied by North East Water meets the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act 2003 and is safe to drink.
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.
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.