We have detected that you are running an unsupported version of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Please upgrade to version 9 or above for the best experience of this website

Williamtown contamination update

Publish Date 12/03/2019

Port Stephens Council has established this page as a portal for information relating to the ongoing water contamination investigation at RAAF Base Williamtown.

Williamtown community update

February 2019

The Department of Premier and Cabinet has collated from their meeting held on the 17 January 2019 the February 2019 Williamtown Community Update (PDF 358KB) with updates from agencies involved in the Community Reference Group as detailed below.

  • Payment of Hunter Water service fee and usage charges
  • Remediation and management works
  • Water conservation during drought
  • Precautionary advice to minimise exposure to PFAS
  • Primary Management Zone
  • Secondary and Broader Management Zones

Read more about the Williamtown Community Reference Group.

Williamtown community update

December 2018

The Department of Premier and Cabinet has collated from their meeting held on the 15 November 2018 the December 2018 Williamtown Community Update (PDF 389KB) with updates from agencies involved in the Community Reference Group as detailed below.

  • Department of Human Services
  • PFAS Health Study - Australian National University
  • NSW Department of Industry
  • Department of Defence

Read more about the Williamtown Community Reference Group.

PFAS Health Study Community Consultations

8 November 2018

Members of the PFAS Health Study Team will be in Williamtown on 26 and 27 November 2018 to provide information about the PFAS Health Study.

When and where

ANU College of Health and Medicine will holding two Community Consultations on 26 November at 7pm and 27 November at 10am.

The Community Consultations will take place at the Murrook Culture Centre, 2163 Nelson Bay Rd, Williamtown.

What to expect

The team will provide information about the design of the epidemiological study, report on the findings of the Systematic Review and the Focus Groups Study, and details how community members can be involved.

You will also have the opportunity to ask questions about the study.

To seek further information please contact ANU by email or phone:

Commonwealth PFAS website launched

29 March 2018

The Commonwealth Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Taskforce launched the www.pfas.gov.au website that provides a central point of information on PFAS including links to health, environment and investigation information.

EPA investigation update

19 December 2017

The investigation into PFAS contamination coming from the RAAF Base Williamtown is complete, and the NSW Government is  providing long-term advice to the Williamtown community.

This follows a review of the Department of Defence’s final Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) report. Based on the data in this report, the PFAS Expert Panel, led by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane AC, made some changes to the precautionary advice and the investigation area.

In summary:

  • The precautionary advice in place since 2015 remains largely unchanged and is tailored for residents depending on location. The advice continues to be precautionary in nature because the effects of PFAS are still unclear.
  • The boundaries of the Investigation Area, now known as the Management Area, will comprise of three zones. This has seen a reduction in some areas and an expansion in other areas including Fullerton Cove and additional streets in Salt Ash.
  • There is now a Primary Management Zone where the strongest advice applies.

Management Area

The new data led the NSW Government to refine the boundaries of the Investigation Area that was originally determined in late 2015. This was possible because of:

  • A significant amount of new data from further testing that the NSW Government requested from Defence in October 2016
  • An increased knowledge of the surface and groundwater in the Investigation Area
  • Modelling of movement of PFAS in the Investigation Area into the future

The boundaries of the Investigation Area, now known as the Management Area, comprises three zones:

  • Primary Management Zone this area has significantly higher levels of PFAS detected and therefore, the strongest advice applies.
  • Secondary Management Zone – this area has some detected levels of PFAS.
  • Broader Management Zone – the topography and hydrology of the area means PFAS detections could occur now and into the future.

Each zone has tailored precautionary advice for residents to minimise exposure to PFAS coming from the RAAF Base Williamtown.

Following feedback from the community, the EPA has been working with a group of water experts and the Williamtown Community Reference Group to improve the Management Area map (PDF 3.2MB) for the various management zones:

  • Property boundaries have been overlaid to easily identify individual properties.
  • Names of main roads have been included for easy reference.
  • The three zones within the Management Area are now identified by three shades of blue, representing the concentrations of PFAS detected. This also improves ease of access for visually-impaired people.
  • There are now three close-up versions of Fullerton Cove (PDF 2.2MB), Williamtown (PDF 2.4MB) and Salt Ash (PDF 3.3MB) .

The map also shows drains leading from the Primary Management Zone (marked as dark blue arrows) and Moors Drain in the Secondary Management Zone (marked with a blue line). The precautionary advice for the area in which the drain is located applies.

For the most up to date identification of property and precautionary advice see www.epa.nsw.gov.au or by phoning 131 555.

Expert Panel revises Williamtown investigation area based on new data

The NSW PFAS Expert Panel has reviewed the Department of Defence’s draft updated  Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) and recommended changes to the Williamtown investigation area to better reflect the level of potential exposure of residents to contamination in certain areas.

Expert Panel revises Williamtown investigation area based on new data. Read more about the expect panel review on the EPA website.

Alternatively, read more on the RAAF Base Williamtown PFAS contamination on the EPS website.

PFAS results in the Williamtown Investigation Zone

Port Stephens Council recognises that the PFAS contamination at Williamtown is a significant issue for the local community.

Where possible we aim to keep the community as informed as possible regarding local testing and remediation work being carried out in the vicinity of the investigation zone.

Drainage maintenance has recently been undertaken on the open drains owned and managed by Council. These drains include, Moors Drain, Middle Drain, Dawsons Drain (north of Cabbage Tree Road) and Table drain adjacent to Nelson Bay Road.

The open drains are inspected frequently during the year to determine the level and type of maintenance required. If maintenance is required, testing is undertaken for PFAS levels in the water, the drain embankment and the bottom of the drain. See the results below.

The results are used to determine what course of maintenance action is required to prevent the increase in concentration of PFAS as a result of the maintenance activity.

Reopening of fisheries at Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove

DPI Fisheries advised that the fishing closures in Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove will be lifted from Saturday 1 October 2016, with an ongoing restriction placed on dusky flathead caught by commercial fishers.

Read more on the EPA website.

Department of Defence Stage 2B Environmental Investigations Report

In August 2016, the Department of Defence released the Stage 2B Environmental Investigations Report assessing the soil, surface water, sediment and ground water at and in the vicinity of the RAAF Base Williamtown.

An Executive Summary is available on the Department of Defence website - read the 2016 ESA Report Executive Summary (PDF 185KB).

The purpose of the report was to understand the impacts from the historical use of aqueous film forming foam, which are now known to have contained per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

As part of the Stage 2B report, Defence also commissioned an off-site human health risk assessment. An Executive Summary of this report is available on the Department of Defence website - read the 2016 ESA Report Executive Summary (PDF 610KB).

The full report (and other current and past reports) are available on the Department of Defence website.

NSW Government FAQ sheet

The NSW Government has also developed a comprehensive FAQ sheet (updated on 15 August), that assists in explaining the result of this research. It can be found on the EPA website - read the Williamtown RAAF Base Contamination FAQs (PDF 961KB).

What is Council's role?

Port Stephens Council's role in relation to the broader Williamtown water contamination investigation is limited. Council's primary function is assisting in regard to rates, drainage and s149 Certificates.

Does Council determine the rates I pay?

Port Stephens Council does not determine land values used for rating purposes. Land is valued for rating purposes by the NSW Valuer General and these values are provided to Councils to levy rates.

Ratepayers wishing to have their land value reduced for rating purposes need to make enquiry to the NSW Valuer General.

Reviewed land values

The Valuer General's has reviewed land values in the Williamtown contamination investigation area.

View the report prepared for the Valuer General by Valuation Services, Property NSW.

Land value and rates information

Council has received numerous enquires relating to the rates levied on properties within the Williamtown Contamination Investigation Area. To assist ratepayers, Council provides the following information:

NSW Valuer General

The Valuer General conducted a review of land values within the area in June 2016 and most land values were reduced approximately 15%. The Valuer General has advised that those valuations had effect from 1 July 2016. Rate notices for 2016/17 were calculated using those new values. No adjustment will be made to prior year rates.

The Valuer General has a call centre to assist customers with valuation and objection enquiries. Ratepayers can contact the call centre by calling 1800 110 038.

Alternatively ratepayers may write to the Valuer General at GPO Box 15 Sydney NSW 2001.

Payment of Rates

Section 36 of the Valuation of Land Act provides that rates remain payable even though there may be a current objection in relation to land value or an appeal to the Land and Environment Court pending. This means ratepayers need to pay rates as levied.

If a ratepayer is experiencing difficulty in paying rates, please call Council's Rates team on 02 4980 0393 for further information.

Adjustment of Rates

If a property owner's land value is subsequently reduced, then the rate assessment will be credited with any necessary adjustments.

Section 149 Planning Certificates

Why do I need a Section 149 Planning Certificate?

Section149 Certificates provide information about planning controls and other property issues that affect a piece of land. When land is bought or sold, the Conveyancing Act 1919 requires a section 149 Planning Certificate to be attached to the contract of sale. Another reason for the Certificate is to assist an existing owner decide about the uses of their land.

Two types of certificates are provided by Port Stephens Council:

  • A section 149(2) certificate shows the zoning of the property, its relevant state, regional and local planning controls and other property issues such as land contamination. It is a mandatory inclusion in a contract for the sale of land.
  • A section 149(5) certificate provides the same information as a 149(2), but also includes other factors, including general advice regarding aircraft noise from military aircraft operating in the Port Stephens Area. A section 149(5) certificate provides the only avenue for general notifications of this nature.

Council recommends that potential buyers obtain a 149(5) planning certificate in relation to:

  • land in the Williamtown Investigation Area; and
  • the potential effects of military aircraft noise.

Please note that a s149(5) certificate attracts an additional fee in accordance with relevant legislation.

For further information can be found on our Section 149 Certificate information page or contact s149 certificate Customer Support in the Strategy and Environment Section through Council's Customer Service on (02) 4980 0255.


Council is only responsible for a small number of drains in the Williamtown Investigation Area, namely Moors and Leary's Drains and part of Dawson's Drain. The remainder are either owned by state government agencies or private land owners.

Council carries out routine maintenance and inspections of Council owned drains to maintain stormwater flow, including on those located in the Investigation Area. There is currently no embargo on drains maintenance within the Investigation Area.

Vegetation and material removed from drains is stored within the Investigation Area until testing of the material is complete. At this time, there are no further planned works on Council owned drains within the Investigation Area. Ongoing routine inspections shall determine if maintenance works are required and works will be programmed in a prioritised manner.

Where do I get more information?

Further information on the following can be obtained from a NSW Government fact sheet. It can be found on the EPA website - read the Williamtown RAAF Base Contamination FAQs (PDF 961KB). It includes information on the following areas:

  • Investigation
  • Precautionary advice
  • Health
  • Water
  • Produce and livestock
  • Fisheries
  • Investigation progress
  • enHealth guidelines
NSW Government contact details and links

Who can I call if I have concerns? For more information, please contact:

  • NSW EPA - Williamtown RAAF Base contamination community news
  • Federal Department of Defence in relation to RAAF Base Williamtown Environmental Investigation on 1800 011 443
  • NSW Environment Line on 131 555
  • NSW Food Authority Helpline on 1300 552 406
  • NSW Valuer General on1800 110 038.
  • Hunter New England Support on 1800 011 511
  • Hunter New England Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055
  • DPI Fisheries on 4982 1232
  • Hunter Water on 1300 657 657

Previous news and notices