Toxicity testing at Forest Hill a 'waiting game'

Forest Hill residents are playing the waiting game as testing into potential water contamination from RAAF Base Wagga continues. 

The Department of Defence last year launched a closer look at the ground and water surrounding the Riverina training facility, amid widespread fears about its use of toxic firefighting chemicals.

Fresh concerns follow an investigation – spearheaded by ABC – revealing the public was kept in the dark about the dangerous nature of the foam it used to extinguish aircraft fires. 

The chemicals are highly persistent and have proven toxic to some species, accumulating in the bodies of fish, animals and humans.

While full extend of the health risks remain unknown, Monday’s Four Corners exposé unveiled the Defence department knew about potential dangers in the 80s. 

But Forest Hill Progress Association president Kevin Kerr said only very minor amounts had been detected around Wagga’s base. 

Preliminary testing in 2016 found the presence of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in three of five water samples, but only in very low concentrations.

“It’s very low here (compared to Tindall and Williamtown),” Mr Kerr said. 

“Until we get answers from further testing, (the Department of Defence) are not in a good position to say whether things are good, bad or better.”

Mr Kerr’s words follows public meetings held at the Riverina site this year, informing and updating residents about the discovery of the chemicals in surface and ground water.

He said it was important to note the department had admitted there was a problem, unlike organisations that also used the foam. 

“(Defence) stopped using it when they found out it wasn’t doing any good,” he said.

“They had to look for an alternative first though … you can’t just stop using something that works to save lives and say: ‘we’ll just let them burn’.”