Williamtown Expert Panel

The Expert Panel is led by NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane and consists of a range of technical experts in contamination and health.  It also includes senior representatives from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the Department of Health, the Department of Primary Industries and the Hunter Water Corporation. 

The Expert Panel explores the nature and extent of contamination from fire-fighting foams used historically at Williamtown RAAF base and recommends next steps.

The Panel provides scientific advice to the EPA and other NSW Government agencies to inform decisions that may need to be made to protect the community and the environment.

The Expert Panel works in partnership and consults regularly with the Williamtown Contamination Investigation Community Reference Group to ensure the community remains informed and updated and can continue to raise any concerns.

The core functions of the Expert Panel defined by the Terms of Reference are to:

  • Assess available information on contamination from the Williamtown RAAF Base and advise agencies on factors influencing the retention of temporary measures already in place, and the need for any additional measures to manage potential risks, including recreational and commercial fishing, oyster harvesting, bore water usage and agricultural activities.
  • Provide advice to the EPA on whether and what additional investigations or studies are needed to be undertaken by the Department of Defence and their consultants, to assist in refining risk assessment and management measures related to the PFOS and PFOA contamination originating from the Williamtown RAAF Base.
  • Review and provide advice on proposed remediation strategies to be undertaken by the Department of Defence to address migration of contamination from the Williamtown RAAF Base and advise on the need for further investigations, long-term monitoring, and reporting mechanisms for the data and information from these activities.
  • Provide a source of informed expert advice to the EPA and through them to the Department of Defence on guidance to the local community and relevant stakeholders. 

The Williamtown Expert Panel, led by NSW Chief Scientist Professor Mary O’Kane, met for the first time on Wednesday 23 September 2015.

The Expert Panel has established two working groups to collaborate and provide an additional source of informed scientific advice to the Chair of the Expert Panel – a Water Working Group (WWG) and a Risk Assessment Group (RAWG).

The WWG has been established to assist in developing the NSW Government’s response to the Department of Defence in relation to investigations to characterise and manage its offsite PFC contamination resulting from historical usage of PFC containing firefighting foams at the Williamtown RAAF Base.

Chaired by independent Expert Panel member, Dr Will Glamore, the WWG will provide advice on what additional sampling needs to be undertaken by Department of Defence and/or State Government agencies to inform the development of the comprehensive Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA). This includes the development of hydrological and hydrogeological modelling to improve the understanding of potential migration pathways for PFCs in the environment and help to identify potential human health and environmental receptors.

The RAWG has been established to provide expert advice to the Chair of the Expert relating to the potential risk pathways associated with the off-site migration of PFOS and PFOA. The RAWG will also provide ongoing advice to the Department of Defence while they undertake the Human Health Risk Assessment. This includes advice on biota sampling and community land use information that needs  to be undertaken and assistance in determining immediate exposure pathways to land and water users in the vicinity of RAAF Williamtown.

The RAWG is co-chaired by Expert Panel member Dr Ben Scalley, NSW Health Director of Environmental Health.

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