Government moves to ban use of PFOS and PFOA firefighting foam in Queensland

Published Friday, 08 July, 2016 at 05:56 AM

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

The Queensland Government has announced it will ban the future use of the chemical firefighting foams which are at the centre of recent land contamination issues.

Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said today the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection was implementing a “strict policy with respect to firefighting foams and their environmental management.”

“Queensland is adamant that firefighting foams containing highly persistent organic pollutants including perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) implicated in the contamination of the Oakey Defence base need to be phased out,’ Dr Miles said.

“The Government will require that any existing stocks of foams containing PFOS and PFOA are withdrawn from service at commercial and industrial premises, and similar products phased out and replaced, as soon as practicable with more sustainable alternatives.

“This policy is about doing what is right for current and future generations based on the growing knowledge of these chemicals that we have today.

“EHP will monitor compliance with this policy at business facilities where Queensland laws apply,” he said.

The impact of the ban will be felt by a small number of industry sectors in Queensland that continue to hold stocks of PFOS and PFOA foams for use in emergency situations, such as industrial ports and bulk fuel storage facilities.

“Our focus is on those who hold large stocks of toxic firefighting foam for use in an emergency situation, as they have the potential to cause significant environmental harm, if used,’ Dr Miles said.

“We do not want to see the continued use of these products at any facility in Queensland and I congratulate those who have already transitioned away from PFC containing firefighting foam.

“The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service has been using PFC-free firefighting foam since 2003, so we know there are good alternatives out there for heavy industrial users.

“Non-persistent firefighting foams are available, effective and certified for all major firefighting applications. They can break down or biodegrade should they be released to the environment,’ he said.

Dr Miles said the policy recognised that maintaining effective fire management systems was of the utmost importance.

“Over coming months, the government will work with ports and bulk fuel storage facilities to ensure they fully understand the government’s new strict policy,” he said.

“Businesses failing to comply with the policy to replace such stocks will face enforcement action. Businesses that supply or replenish portable extinguishers will also need to comply with the policy.”

Dr Miles said contamination caused by the historical use of these firefighting foams during training exercises at a range of facilities, including defence bases and airports, was largely the responsibility of the users such as the Department of Defence and Commonwealth Government.


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