Toxic spill assurances welcome but further investigations needed

21 April 2017

Healthy Land and Water welcomes today’s assurance from the Queensland Government that toxic concentrations near the site of last week’s foam spill at Brisbane Airport have declined but said further test results would provide a more accurate picture of impacts.

The organisation also warned that the contamination of Brisbane River and Moreton Bay ecosystems would place further stress on a marine environment already under pressure from sediment and nutrient pollution after the recent flooding of catchments in South East Queensland.    

Principal Scientist at Healthy Land and Water Dr Paul Maxwell said further investigations were needed to determine the movement of the harmful chemicals PFOA and PFAS in the marine environment, and the longer term effects of bioaccumulation in the marine food chain.

“It is welcome news that levels of harmful chemicals in the affected area have declined however we still need to understand the long-term impacts of this toxic spill on underwater ecosystems in the Brisbane River and Moreton Bay,” Dr Maxwell said.

“It is an unfortunate fact that some toxic chemicals can remain a threat in the food chain even if environmental levels of the toxin are not very high. Further research is required to determine whether that is the case in this instance.”    

Healthy Land and Water was advised of the toxic foam spill several days after the event and immediately liaised with the Queensland Government to help determine the boundaries of the contamination, and where hazardous materials were likely to travel given water movements.

As the leading agency for natural resource management in South East Queensland, Healthy Land and Water’s science team and water quality experts stand ready to further assist government and industry agencies to better understand the long-term implications of the firefighting foam spill.

“This is a timely reminder that we need to take far more care around our waterways and Moreton Bay, which are already under major stress from increased sediment and nutrient pollution after the recent floods,” Dr Maxwell said.

“The added stress of a chemical spill will only make it more difficult for marine habitats to recover.”