RAAF Water Contaminations

You would think a Defence Minister is there to protect citizens and the local community, however the Defence Minister has been accused of stalling any correction action toward the recent RAAF water contaminations that threaten families safety and livelihood. 

“The chemicals — perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) — were historically used in firefighting foams.” (Wakatama & staff, 2015)

These toxins used in firefighting foam were then left to flow into drains from defence bases, which then got into the water supply and soil.

With health implications to consuming the contaminated water this concerns not only a region, as it also affects the local businesses that rely on distributing produce around the country.

“The Hunter’s lucrative school prawn industry and several other commercial fisheries have been devastated by contamination from probable cancer-causing chemicals in firefighting foam, routinely used at RAAF Williamtown for about 50 years.” (Murphey, 2016)

This is not the first time or only location that the RAAF have contaminated waters.


Army Aviation Centre Oakey, QLD

RAAF Base Townsville, QLD

RAAF Base Amberley, QLD

Jervis Bay Range Facility, ACT

RAAF Williamtown, NSW

RAAF Base Richmond, NSW

Holsworthy Barracks, NSW

HMAS Albatross, NSW

RAAF Base Wagga, NSW

RAAF Base Tindal, NT

RAAF Base Darwin, NT

Robertson Barracks, NT

RAAF Base Edinburgh, SA

RAAF Base East Sale, VIC

Bandiana Military Area, VIC

HMAS Cerberus, VIC

HMAS Stirling, Fleet Base West, WA

RAAF Base Pearce, WA

(Deutrom, 2016)

“Documents obtained by the ABC show Defence officials knew of the dangers of firefighting chemicals used at an air base near Newcastle five years before they stopped using them.” (Wakatama & staff, 2015)

Penny Sharpe: So you’ve known for two weeks but it’s only been announced to the public today?

Scott Hansen: That’s because since being notified, further testing needed to be done. Further clarification from the department of defence and the federal department of environment needed to be sought. The [notifications] have gone out as soon as facts were known to be able to give a series of advice to residents without scaring them unnecessarily. (Wakatama & staff, 2015)

Without scaring them unnecessarily runs the risk of there potentially being adverse health risks which it turns out they failed to inform the public when there are potential negative health affects to the public from there actions.

“The Department of Defence last month announced a range of trials to remediate the contamination with a $9 million investment in a filtration plant at RAAF Williamtown.” (Murphey, 2016)

Forcing the taxpayer to clean up after them is not the best public relations solution for the RAAF.

Pollution is not always caused in the private market as there are many businesses that interact to decrease pollution of each other by working together to seek better solutions to satisfy to deliver the best products and produce to consumers high quality demands.

“Fisheries scientists are investigating if shellfish such as prawns and crabs, as well as some fish species, can clear themselves of toxic chemicals if they are moved to clean water.” (Murphy, 2016)

Here, is an example that the local affected businesses are doing their part to clean up government pollution to help improve the quality of their goods to keep customers healthy and happy.

“So do the other families of the small rural town, who are beginning to see a string of unexplained cancers, liver and gall bladder infections, pregnancy develop-mental issues and thyroid disease at rates too high to ignore.” (Deutrom, 2016)

Unlike that of the public sector that is accountable to no one and is not driven to reduce pollution for profits, resulting in the socialist calculation problem, for more on this see my article Negative Externalities of Agriculture Industry.

“Late last year the NSW Environment Protection Authority issued an urgent public health warning telling locals not to drink their bore water or eat fish or oysters from local waterways, or locally produced eggs and vegetables.” (Deutrom, 2016)

The only solution put forth is to not eat or drink leaving the community and businesses destroyed and having to go broke or sell up at low prices.

“At each turn of this tragic saga, residents who live and work nearby have been seemingly overlooked by authorities, constantly referred from one low level bureaucrat to another as they struggle to have their voices heard.” (Deutrom, 2016)

Reference List

Deutrom, R. (2016). Oakey contaminated water: Residents demand answers from the defence department. The Courier-Mail. Retrieved [03/07/16] from <http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/oakey-contaminated-water-residents-demand-answers-from-the-defence-department/news-story/18fcfecaa88139eace9c5cfcde9875da>.

Murphy, R. (2016). ABC. Fish, shellfish poisoned by toxic chemicals from williamtown RAAF base ‘can clean out their systems’. Retrieved [03/07/16] from <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-30/toxic-chemicals-from-raaf-base-affecting-fish-stocks/7556452>.

Wakatama, G. & staff. (2015). Williamtown RAAF base contamination: Documents warned of chemical risk 12 years ago. ABC. Retrieved [03/07/16] from <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-04/documents-warned-of-chemical-risk-at-raaf-base-12-years-ago/6748950>.

Featured image supplied free from Unsplash.

Copyright © 2016 Zoë-Marie Beesley

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