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Fit For Purpose: Follow Up on the Hunter Environmental Disaster

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When Chattr reported on the Williamtown water contamination scandal in May, there was no indication that the issue would be fixed any time soon. This is the case – and the problems have only gotten worse.

Local man Robert Roseworne, who we spoke to for our May article, reports a dramatic loss of income and a worrying rise in the level of PFOS/A detectable in the groundwater around his home. He believes this spike coincided with renewed construction efforts at the RAAF base from which the contamination stems. The Department of Defence has still not made a long-term commitment to remediation or a buyback of the impacted properties.

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“Defence has a head-in-the-sand attitude.’ He said, over the phone. “But the science is catching up pretty quickly.”

The new United States guidelines for PFOS/A in groundwater place Williamtown’s level of contamination 1280 times over the safe level.

But this fact appears to have no bearing on cases here, as Australia uses outdated European guidelines to measure the safe amount of PFOS/A in water.

Oakey, a town in Queensland that has been similarly affected by the chemicals, recently played host to renowned environmental lawyer & advocate, Erin Brockovich. She believes that the contamination is worse there than anywhere else.

“There are innocent children in Oakey who are four years old with blood levels 10 times higher than the national median average … what will their futures look like?”

For his part, Mr Roseworne does not believe that the Department of Defence will act anytime soon.

“Lives are being put below the dollar. As long as the land is considered fit for purpose they will not consider buybacks.”

‘Fit for purpose’ means that the properties are suitable for their intended use – habitation. For those who run businesses off their property, like Robert does, or who wish to move away, this idea presents something of a problem. Especially when land in Williamtown and the surrounding areas is being valued at close to zero.

Chattr will continue to report on this situation.