What is PFAS?
Per and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) such as PFOS and PFOA are a group of manufactured chemicals.
PFAS have been used since the 1950s in a range of common household products and specialty applications, including in the manufacture of non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications, food packaging, and some industrial processes including certain types of fire-fighting foams.
However the substances are not manufactured in Australia and are no longer directly used in consumer products.
National health-based guideline values have been established for PFAS in drinking water. These guideline values are very low, and are based on an assumption of lifetime consumption at the maximum tolerable daily intake. PFAS are found at very low levels in the blood of the general population all over the world.
To find out more visit the Queensland Government website, at https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/investigation-pfas/about.
Queensland Government factsheet with more information about PFAS is available here.
Could I be affected by PFAS?
Whitsunday Regional Council worked closely with the Queensland Government in response to the detection of per and poly-fluorinated substances (PFAS) in a groundwater bore adjacent to the Proserpine Showgrounds.
Testing has shown no PFAS was detected in the drinking water network, only in the ground water. This means the Proserpine town water supply continues to be safe to drink.
The affected bore was isolated immediately on the same day as the results were received, and will be switched off until further notice.
Water sampling undertaken by Queensland Health showed levels of PFAS above Australian drinking water quality guidelines in one bore located adjacent to the Proserpine Showgrounds, in results received on 11 April 2018. Queensland Health and Council undertook further water testing on 17 April 2018, with results received on 23 April 2018.
While there is no identified risk to health associated with these findings, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) has undertaken further environmental testing around Proserpine to check for any broader contamination issue.
Of the 23 groundwater wells tested, 4 bores (not used for town drinking water supply) detected PFAS above the drinking water standard, but below recreational guideline values.
8 storm water drainage locations were tested and returned PFAS results below recreational guideline limits. This means there is no health risk associated with members of the public that may come into direct contact with storm water containing PFAS.
Surface water sampling did not detect PFAS in the Proserpine River or Lagoon Creek.
We are continuing to work with DES and Queensland Health to investigate potential sources of the contamination, and future measures will include a groundwater use survey of bores within the relevant area.
Anyone concerned about their own health or that of family members should talk to their GP or call 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84).
For any enquiries regarding the town water supply, please contact our Customer Service Centre on 1300 WRC QLD (972 753).
15 July 2020
In 2018 testing undertaken by Council detected small trace amounts of PFAS in the groundwater supply, well below the guideline limits enforced by the Queensland Government of 0.07ug/L – (micrograms per litre).
Our officers have worked closely with Queensland Health and the Department of Environment & Science to ensure this substance moving forward was to be regularly monitored and reported on.
We updated our Drinkwater Quality Management Plan (DWQMP) to reflect this need for regular quarterly testing to monitor PFAS.
We have undertaken PFAS testing on the regions reticulated water. Officers tested Treated Water (leaving the plant) and in the Reticulation system for each scheme. Results showed no detection for Bowen, Airlie, Collinsville and Proserpine - Reticulated Water. However, Proserpine Treated Water had a very-low detection (0.005ug/L, which is just barely detectable as detection limit is 0.005). This result is well below the Guideline value of 0.07ug/L.
To make sure due diligence was applied to ensure our residents safety, Council Officers retested the Proserpine Reticulated Water and also tested the Proserpine Raw water (a combination of all bores that feed Proserpine's Water Treatment plant), to check if a repeat detection is recorded.
Lab results received by Council on 13/7/20 have shown no detection in either Proserpine’s Treated Water or the Raw Water from the retest undertaken.
The next scheduled tests for the quarter as per DWQMP requirements is scheduled to be undertaken on the 18th August.
To ensure transparency for our residents, results are published each year in Whitsunday Regional Council’s DWQMP Annual Report which is posted on our website.
We treat all PFAS issues seriously and ensure we do regular testing and monitoring of the WRC water supply.
On behalf of our community, we are consistently requesting updated information from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) for further updates into the broader investigation of PFAS and locating the actual point source in Proserpine.
We have requested further action from DES whom is leading the investigation into the results they took in 2018 from the 23 private ground water bores (not connected to council systems).