Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Williamtown RAAF Base contamination

The NSW Government recognises that the PFAS contamination at Williamtown is a significant issue for the local community. In response, the NSW Government continues to undertake a comprehensive range of actions involving input from a number of Government Departments in order to address the key areas of concern.

The NSW Government has in place an ongoing agreement from the Department of Defence that they will continue to expedite and undertake contaminated site assessments in and around the RAAF base at Williamtown which are consistent with NSW regulatory requirements.

Human Health Risk Assessment

On 8 August 2016 the Commonwealth Department of Defence (Defence) released its Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) examining possible pathways for human exposure to PFAS arising from contamination at the Williamtown RAAF Base. Defence has also released an Environmental Site Assessment which includes modelling to predict the movement of the of the PFAS chemicals. 

These reports confirm that the precautionary advice, fishing closures (subsequently lifted on 1 October 2016) and investigation area identified in October 2015 are appropriate and provide the best advice to residents to minimise their exposure to PFAS chemicals. On October 1 2016, waterways were reopened for fishing and precautions around the consumption of local seafood were mostly lifted, with some guidance (details below).

In addition to the current advice, the NSW Government is advising residents to moderate their consumption of home grown fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry while further work and analysis is undertaken by Defence.

The reports also reinforce that the drinking or consumption of groundwater is a major exposure pathway for contamination and highlights that incidental swallowing, particularly by children, should be avoided when showering, bathing and swimming in groundwater or surface water.

Independent review of the enHealth Guidelines for PFAS toxicity

On 9 September 2016 the Commonwealth Department of Health released the findings of the Federal Government commissioned independent review into national exposure interim guidelines for per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). The review found that adoption of European human health reference standards (toxicity levels) for PFAS in drinking and recreational water was “appropriate and is protective of public health”.

Following this review, the NSW Government confirmed that dietary, health and behavioural precautionary advice remains in place for residents in the Williamtown Investigation Area.

Reopening of fisheries at Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove

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

It is now safe to eat fish, prawns and oysters caught in the local area and the public can be confident that seafood for sale, which has been caught in the local area, is safe to eat. A restriction will be placed on dusky flathead in the Hunter River for commercial fishers only, while recreational fishers are advised to release any dusky flathead caught.

People who source and eat large amounts of local seafood from a single location, such as fishers and local residents, may wish to limit the number of servings of individual species (see table).  

Precautionary advice

The NSW Government is recommending that residents from the Williamtown community living inside this Investigation Area (PDF 583KB) follow precautionary advice to minimise their exposure to PFAS chemicals originating from the Williamtown RAAF Base.

  • Do not use groundwater, bore water or surface water for drinking or cooking.
  • Do not eat eggs or drink milk produced in the advisory area.
  • Avoid swallowing groundwater or surface water when bathing, showering, swimming and paddling.
  • Moderate consumption of fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry produced in the advisory area while further work and analysis is undertaken.
  • Locally caught seafood is safe to eat however people who source and eat large amounts from a single location, such as fishers and local residents, may wish to limit the number of servings of individual species (see table).

Recommended maximum intake based on eating a single species caught from the Hunter River Children (2 to 6 years old) Children (2 to 6 years old) All other age groups All other age groups
  Fish Crustacean Fish Crustacean
1 serve total per week (1 serve = 150 grams) Dusky flathead, Luderick, Sea mullet, Silver biddy Eastern king prawn, School prawn, Blue swimmer crab, Mud crab Dusky flathead Eastern king prawn
Up to 4 serves total per week Sand whiting, Yellowfin bream   Luderick School prawns, Blue swimmer crab
Up to 8 serves total per week     Sand whiting, Sea mullet, Silver biddy, Yellowfin bream Mud crab

Note: For dusky flathead, consider catch and release for recreational fishers. Eastern King Prawn are not commercially targeted in this area.

Media releases

Where can I find more information?

NSW Environment Line (EPA) - 131 555
Defence community hotline - 1800 011 443
Health related questions - 1300 066 055
Department of Primary Industries
- 1800 353 104
NSW Food Authority - 1300 552 406

Got a question?

If you have a question or issue relating to contamination from the Williamtown RAAF Base that is not addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions document please let us know by filling out the form on the Got a question? page.

Questions and responses may also be added to the FAQ document.

If your question is urgent please contact the Environment Line on 131 555.

Page last updated: 02 February 2017