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Council's priority to keep community informed about contamination response

Publish Date 17/09/2015

Port Stephens Council has offered to assist with providing information about the water contamination at RAAF Williamtown and surrounding areas to keep the community properly and speedily informed.

Council staff attended an agency briefing as well as a community meeting on Wednesday night which highlighted the community's concerns about their health, livelihoods, property values, health of domestic animals and livestock and the local environment.

General Manager Wayne Wallis said Council has been assured by the Department of Defence and the Environmental Protection Authority that it will be kept informed on plans to be developed by the state and federal governments to address the issue.

"The Department of Defence and the Environmental Protection Authority, along with a number of other NSW government agencies, are developing the next stage," he said.

"Unfortunately, at this time, there are still many more questions than answers.

"Community members at the meeting clearly indicated they expected immediate support for their critical issues and Council's first concern at this stage is to assist in the distribution of information so the people of Port Stephens are properly and speedily informed.

"Information including the executive summary of the stage 2 report will be available in hard copy at our libraries and Council's administration building, and digital links to the full copy of the 2000-page report, registration forms and other fact sheets will be posted on our website as they become available."

Mr Wallis said Council officers were first briefed confidentially on the issue in 2012 and received a letter from the Department of Defence dated 20 May 2013, which outlined the results of stage one of an investigation initiated in 2012.

The letter said detectable levels of Perflurooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) were found in on-site and off-site surface water and drain sediments at RAAF Williamtown. It also reported off-site ground water samples showed no detectable PFOS and PFOA.

"The letter alerted Council officers to the issue but indicated that, at that early stage, further research was needed to understand the possible risks," Mr Wallis said.

"Given the initial advice did not indicate immediate cause for alarm and that further investigations were underway, Councillors were not briefed on the matter at the time."

Council received subsequent correspondence in 2014 advising that the stage 2 research was underway.

"Council's focus now is to help the community in relation to this issue where we can," Mr Wallis said.

"We are advocating to the Department of Defence and the EPA for clear guidance on the action going forward and immediate support to be made available to residents."

A full copy of the stage 2 report is available at: http://www.defence.gov.au/id/Williamtown/Documents.asp