NATIONAL PFAS MANAGEMENT
Airservices is committed to the responsible management of PFAS resulting from our historical use of PFAS-containing fire fighting foams at airports where we provide aviation rescue and fire fighting services.
We manage PFAS to ensure the safety of our people, and the communities and environment in which we operate.
We are taking action through a National PFAS Management Program that includes site investigations, monitoring, management actions and, where appropriate, remediation.
We work closely with Commonwealth, State and Territory regulators, airport owners and operators, and research institutions to manage the impacts of our historical use of PFAS.
What are PFAS?
PFAS stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, which are manufactured chemicals used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water. PFAS has been used in Australia and around the world in many household and speciality products.
In the past, fire fighting foams containing PFAS were used by Airservices and other fire fighting organisations due to their effectiveness in fighting liquid fuel fires.
When Airservices became aware of the potential environmental impacts of PFAS in the early 2000s, we acted quickly to transition away from PFAS-containing foams and have been using PFAS-free foams since 2010.
Aviation rescue fire fighting services are or have been provided by Airservices at 27 airports around Australia. Airservices has not used aqueous film forming foams, which contain PFAS, at five of those 27 locations (Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Gladstone, Newman, and Proserpine). Of the remaining 22 locations, two are joint user facilities where the Department of Defence has the lead in any investigations (Darwin and Townsville).
The final 20 locations are subject to investigation by Airservices:
- Australian Capital Territory – Canberra
- New South Wales – Sydney
- Northern Territory – Alice Springs, Yulara
- Queensland – Brisbane, Cairns, Gold Coast, Hamilton Island, Mackay, Rockhampton, Sunshine Coast
- South Australia – Adelaide
- Tasmania - Hobart, Launceston
- Victoria – Avalon, Melbourne
- Western Australia – Broome, Karratha, Perth, Port Hedland
The investigations include:
- Preliminary Site Investigations (PSIs) to consider the impacts of historical firefighting foam use, focused on the detection of PFAS in the soil and groundwater.
- Detailed Site Investigations (DSIs) to provide comprehensive information on the type, extent, and level of contamination, and if remedial action is required. Using a priority ranking based on the results of the PSIs, Tranche 1 DSIs are underway at seven airports, and procurement is currently being prepared for Tranche 2 DSIs at a further five airports.
- Targeted Site Investigations (TSIs) are conducted to answer specific questions, fill data gaps, and to understand potential impacts in specific locations. These provide additional information for, and the ranking of, the DSIs. TSIs have been carried out at six airports, and are underway at a further six airports.
These investigations are being progressively published as they are completed.
Note: The following list of locations notes where ARFF services were not provided by Airservices prior to 2010 when AFFF was in use by Airservices: Essendon Airport (VIC), Moorabbin Airport (VIC), Parafield Airport (SA), Jandakot Airport (WA), Archerfield (QLD), Bundaberg (QLD), Eagle Farm (QLD), Mt Isa (QLD), Proserpine (QLD), Devonport (TAS), Wynyard (TAS), Bankstown (NSW), Tamworth (NSW) and Norfolk Island (NSW). Airservices was established in 1995 via the Air Services Act 1995. Responsibility for management of any potential legacy PFAS contamination from historic ARFF operations at these sites is a complex matter that is currently being considered by the Commonwealth.
Management actions and remediation
We are undertaking a number of activities to manage legacy PFAS on our leased areas including responsible management actions to clean and treat wastewater, stormwater and drains and remove stockpiles that may be a source of PFAS, as well as identifying opportunities for remediation works.
We have identified the former fire fighting training ground at Launceston Airport and the Satellite Fire Station at Brisbane Airport as sites for remediation. Planning for the remediation activities is underway with works expected to commence in early 2023 and take approximately 12 months to complete.
This activity seeks to address PFAS in concrete and soil by removing impacted infrastructure and soil and disposing of it via an appropriate waste disposal facility.
Airservices will continue identifying further opportunities for remediation works at locations where we historically used PFAS-containing fire fighting foams. This is an ongoing and dynamic process which considers factors such as site investigation outcomes, environmental risk, and operational risk, including the impact on airport operations.
Research and development
To better understand PFAS and develop practical, risk-based solutions to the challenges it presents, we have made significant investments in research and development with industry and university groups.
Our PFAS Research & Development program includes initiatives aimed at:
- Gaining a better understanding of the behaviour of PFAS in the environment
- Supporting initiatives to establish screening criteria for ecological, human health and waste management
- Developing treatments to remove PFAS from impacted materials.
Our current initiatives are listed below.