Early groundwater results show elevated levels of PFAS

27 April 2018

Preliminary testing of groundwater has detected elevated levels of PFAS around the Port of Townsville.  This testing was undertaken as part of a voluntary monitoring program by the Port.

Per-and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been widely used since the 1950s in household and industrial products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water.

After detecting PFAS readings, POTL immediately started working with Queensland Government departments and independent experts on next steps to investigate and address the issue.

Port of Townsville Limited CEO Ranee Crosby said that the source and extent of PFAS in groundwater, particular areas at the boundary of the Port, would be the subject of further investigations and testing.

“The Port area is fully reclaimed land and its origins are in locations where there have been a range of industrial uses over 150 years”, she said.

Historical activities in the areas of most elevated readings included a coal fired power station, old naval bunker lines, railway operations and former fuel storage facilities.  Over 150 years, landfill from various sites around the city have been used to create port lands.

Ms Crosby said while preliminary testing had shown elevated levels of PFAS, further testing is essential to understand the extent and nature of the issue.  Importantly, testing at this point has only been on port lands, and broader samples of surrounding areas would be required.

“We wish to assure residents in the area that these results do not relate to water connected to town supplies, which is used by Townsville residents for drinking.  No groundwater in the Port is used for human consumption,” Ms Crosby said.

“However, it is important that the community around the Port is provided with the earliest advice regarding the detection of PFAS, particularly households having bores”, she said. 

Queensland Health’s longstanding advice to residents on use of bore water generally is that it should not be used for recreation or consumption unless it has been tested and known to be completely safe.

The next step is to complete a preliminary site investigation to understand the nature and extent of PFAS both within the port and any beyond the port boundary.  This will include looking at historical uses of lands in these areas that may be the source of PFAS.  This investigation will also examine potential pathways of PFAS into the environment.

This investigation will be undertaken in accordance with the National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM) framework, will take approximately 8 weeks to complete, and will be made fully available to the public.  We will keep the community fully informed as this investigation progresses.

“We are working closely with Queensland Health, the Department of Environment and Science, Townsville City Council and other experts to undertake this further testing and investigations to ensure the health and wellbeing of the community and the environment.”

 Further information on PFAS in Queensland is available on the Queensland Government website here: