A Wagga resident and water quality professional says a threat to the town’s water supply could be real.
Gregory Semple said he never wanted to become an expert in the toxic chemicals PFAS, but he almost felt like one now.
It comes after the Murray Cod Hatcheries owner discovered the ground and surface water at his fish farm had been polluted by the per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.
These toxic and highly persistent chemicals were found in firefighting foam a number of agencies used from the 70s until 2004.
According to a Department of Defence report released early in June, the pollutant migrated from RAAF Base Wagga through the storm water drains, seeping into the surface and ground water at the Gumly Gumly wetlands.
Tests revealed “very high” PFAS levels in all of the surface and ground water, used for aquaculture and agriculture at the fish farm, with some readings more than 350 times the acceptable safe drinking and agriculture standards.
Environmentally speaking, according to Canadian standards, these levels were more than 30,608 times higher than safe 99 per cent biotic conservation levels.
Mr Semple - a former Sydney Water officer - first noticed the change in water quality at Murray Cod Hatcheries when drought forced him to pull ground and surface water to continue breeding.
That was when the “weird and wonderful” happenings began and the Wagga man started researching.
In addition to the loss of his cod, the reproduction and survival of his most resistant breeds began to wane, with the minimal number of surviving catfish showing signs of scoliosis and other deformities.
“Livestock have unexplained oestrogen and reproductive abnormalities,” Mr Semple said.
“Unjoined mares and nanny goats looked pregnant, with swollen teats and joined mares either failed to conceive or gave birth to still-born foals.”
These effects were consistent with previous findings, that revealed PFAS to be toxic to fish and small animals.
It feels like I've wasted 20 years of my life.Greg Semple
While Defence said no drinking water had been affected in the area, Mr Semple said the contamination had destroyed his multi-million dollar business.
“Everything bred here,” he said.
“We’ve lost tens of millions of dollars over the years.
“It feels like I’ve wasted 20 years of my life.”
It comes after Fairfax Media last week revealed the family of industrial chemicals was even more toxic than previously thought, with the US EPA concluding they were a human health hazard that - at high enough levels - may cause immune dysfunction, reproductive issues and certain types of cancer in humans.
While no tests could ever prove direct causation, Mr Semple fears pre-cancerous lesions found in his oesophagus could be related to his own exposure across two decades.
A detailed map of the contamination also revealed PFAS chemicals in public water supplies across the country were threatening human health at concentrations seven to 10 times lower than previously realised.
While Mr Semple appears to have borne the brunt of Wagga’s contamination, he has potentially stemmed further spread of the chemicals through removal of the surface water for the farm.
That was until he stopped.
Mere kilometres away lie the city’s drinking water bores.