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Contamination summit
Published:  28 November, 2016

A special summit is to be held in Australia in 2017 to help develop ‘nationally consistent standards for environmental contamination’.

The summit will discuss giving Australian states and territories greater powers to deal with contamination on land currently or previously owned by the Australian Government.

Queensland Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles, who has previously expressed concerns about the impacts from contamination on Commonwealth sites on communities and businesses in the state, has welcomed the news.

‘The contamination of current or former Commonwealth-owned sites in Queensland is well documented, and Queensland’s environment department faces significant challenges in managing environmental problems that occur on or around these Commonwealth-owned lands,’ Dr Miles said. ‘The Federal Government has ultimate responsibility for PFAS contamination at Defence sites and civilian airports, and also off-site where contamination is likely to have extended beyond site boundaries.’

Dr Miles believes the Commonwealth should remove the legal barriers that currently make them out of bounds for state environment agencies. ‘There is an urgent need to resolve these challenges so that we can protect the community, and the environment.’

He added that a recent meeting of environment ministers in Sydney acknowledged the challenges of managing PFAS contamination and agreed to work more closely in the future, including around the timely communication of information to the public and ensuring that regulatory approaches are aligned and effective.

In July, the Queensland Government placed restrictions on the use of foams containing PFOS, requiring existing stocks at commercial and industrial premises to be withdrawn from service as soon as possible, and that foams containing related PFAS substances should be phased out and replaced with more sustainable alternatives as soon as possible.