Potentially toxic chemicals found in groundwater at Launceston Airport were above safe levels for human health and will prompt a further investigation of the site.
AirServices Australia released the preliminary site investigation for the airport on Thursday, which detailed findings of levels of perfluorinated compounds, also known as PFAS, found at firefighting sites.
The investigation is part of a national review conducted across the country in response to the health concerns of historic PFAS contamination connected to legacy use of firefighting foam.
In Tasmania, Launceston and Hobart airports are sites involved in the inquiry among more than 30 other, mostly airport, sites.
PFAS chemicals were a common ingredient in firefighting foam, which was used by AirServices Australia in firefighting activities until 2010.
However, an international Fairfax Media investigation uncovered last year that PFAS could be responsible for a cancer cluster in the US, where high levels of PFAS contamination, related to firefighting foam, was found in the drinking water.
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The preliminary site investigation report of the Launceston airport site found that PFAS levels were recorded in the soil, sediment and groundwater.
"PFAS detections in soil or sediment were low and below human health assessment criteria."
However, the levels detected in the groundwater on-airport "exceeded human health criteria levels" but the report notes TasWater supplies reticulated public drinking water to the site and surrounding areas.
The impact of PFAS on human health is still unclear, but the chemicals persist in the environment and can accumulate in animal and human bodies.
There is still not consistent evidence that the chemicals are toxic to humans if consumed, however, the federal government is advising a conservative approach and management plan.
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"On site investigations included the aviation rescue and firefighting sites of the main fire station, the vehicle maintenance areas and the former fire training ground," the report read.
The finding of PFAS at the Launceston Airport site was not unexpected after preliminary testing of the site in 2016 recorded "low levels" of the compound. The exact levels recorded from that report are not known.
"The results of the report indicate further investigation is required and this will be undertaken as part of a detailed site investigation," the report said.
The results of the report have been shared with the Launceston airport and environmental regulator the Environment Protection Authority in Tasmania as well as the federal government.
"AirServices will continue to work with the relevant Commonwealth and state environmental regulators and health authorities and the airport, as part of a risk-based approach to responsibly manage PFAS at Launceston Airport," the report read.
AirServices no longer uses PFAS-containing firefighting foam and began to transition away from the foams in the early 2000s.
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