The Australian Government welcomed the Second Progress report of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade PFAS Sub-committee’s Inquiry into PFAS remediation in and around Defence bases.
The Government’s continued focus in responding to PFAS contamination is the wellbeing of PFAS-affected communities. We remain committed to reducing risks to human health and the environment from PFAS exposure, and working to improve responses to PFAS contamination. The Government detailed its approach in its response to the recommendations of the Joint Standing Committee’s 2018 Inquiry into the management of PFAS contamination in and around Defence bases (2018 PFAS Inquiry). In summary, this approach includes:
- Management interventions to reduce community exposure, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies where appropriate, remediation activities to reduce migration of PFAS contamination, and informing affected communities about potential exposure pathways and how to reduce their exposure;
- Support for affected communities, including mental health support;
- Research to investigate potential health effects of prolonged exposure to PFAS, and to develop technologies to remediate PFAS-contaminated soil, water and other media;
- Comprehensive site investigations and PFAS management plans;
- Coordination and collaboration with states and territories; and
- National guidance and standards for environmental management of PFAS contamination.
Since tabling its response to the 2018 PFAS Inquiry in February 2020, the Government has continued to actively progress PFAS-related activities, despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Defence has implemented additional communication channels with communities, and has worked to provide increased accessibility and enhanced content on information regarding PFAS management activities. These are described in responses to Recommendations 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.
The Government has also continued work to improve chemicals management in Australia and deliver pragmatic guidance and policies, informed by the latest scientific knowledge. These are described in the response to Recommendation 10.
The Government is pleased to provide its responses to the PFAS Sub-committee’s recommendations.