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    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Calls for Commonwealth to ban toxic firefighting foam

    Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
    The Honourable Steven Miles

    Thursday, April 20, 2017

    Calls for Commonwealth to ban toxic firefighting foam

    The Queensland Environment Minister has called on his federal counterpart to adopt Queensland’s firefighting foam ban and step up action against Qantas following the Brisbane airport spill.

    Steven Miles wants Minister Darren Chester to ban firefighting foam from service at the Brisbane Airport and other Commonwealth controlled sites in Queensland to avoid another similar pollution event.

    “Yesterday I wrote to Minister Chester asking him to expedite the replacement of firefighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA at the Brisbane Airport and other Commonwealth controlled sites in Queensland,” Mr Miles said.

    “The Director General of the state Environment Department, Jim Reeves, has also written to Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and asked for a review of their use of PFOA firefighting foams nationally.

    “As we are not the regulator of Commonwealth controlled sites such as Brisbane Airport, our ban doesn’t apply to Qantas.

    “As a result of the foam spill from a Qantas hangar at Brisbane Airport last week, Brisbane residents have been put at risk, which is a position that could have been prevented.

    “What I want to know is why one of the country’s largest and most reputable companies is still using firefighting foams containing PFOS and PFOA right here on our doorstep.

    “The Queensland Government is the only government who has banned these chemicals.

    “Since the Queensland Government introduced a ban nine months ago, we have contacted over 800 operators as a part of a survey and have received over 400 responses.

    “Of those responses, approximately 20% identified they had banned stocks and have either replaced them, or are in process of replacing them with a suitable alternative.

    “I have urged the Commonwealth to take swift regulatory action to hold the polluter accountable for the contamination at Brisbane Airport and investigation of the extent of impact and harm.

    “As the regulation of the Brisbane Airport falls within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development I have called for an immediate intervention to:

    • commence appropriate enforcement action against any responsible party 
    • investigate the extent of any harm to the receiving environment and community
    • require the responsible party to remediate and compensate for any harm caused.

    “There are legacy issues associated with firefighting foam in Australia and we have no doubt there is some pollution in the water due to the historic use of toxic foam.

    “This government is committed to keeping Queenslanders informed and will make the EHP water sampling results available to the public as soon as we have received them from the private laboratory.

    “For now, we are taking a sensible, cautious approach and advising people to avoid seafood consumption from the impacted area.”

    ENDS

    Note: At the time the statement was issued last week, it was believed that commercial trawlers did not operate in the area. It has since become apparent that some beam trawlers do operate in that area and this was made clear by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries yesterday.

    Starting on Friday, April 14, 345 recreational and commercial fishers, including beam trawler operators, were advised of the spill and actions they should take to mitigate any chance of risk as part of a sensible and cautious approach.

    Media contact: Katharine Wright 0422580 342