Environmental Protection Authority confirms high level of PFAS found in Maitland waterway

A hazardous material crew investigates the Truegain site at Rutherford in 2017. Picture: Perry DuffinThe levelofnotorious contaminantPFAS found in aMaitland creekis as high as 22 times the recommendeddrinking water guideline,the state’s environmental watchdog has confirmed.

The NSW Environmental Protection Authoritytold Fairfax Media the combined levelof PFOS/PFHxS found in Stony Creek reached 1.59 micrograms per litre, while a maximum reading of0.4 micrograms per litre was recorded atnearby Fishery Creek.

According to Commonwealth guidelines, the recommended safe drinking water level is 0.07 micrograms per litre while the recreational thresholdis 0.7 micrograms per litre.

Read more:Clean-up planned for PFAS contaminated Truegain site

Confirmation of the high readings of PFAS–the substance at the centre of the Williamtown contamination scandal–came after NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton and the EPA released a mediastatement on Wednesday warning people not to usewater from Stony Creek, Fishery Creek and Wallis Creek for domestic or livestock purposes.

PFAS has been found in all three creeks.Wallis Creek runs into the Hunter River at East Maitland.

An EPA spokesperson said on Friday that a containment system housing PFAS at the Truegain oil refinery site atRutherford overflowed during heavy rain in March.

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison.

He said nearby residents were warned against using creek waterat the time but the agency would contact peopleliving downstream“in the next week”.

Truegain was forced to shut-down almost two years ago amid environmental concerns.

The EPA said on Friday the origin of the PFASwas unknown.

Read more:EPA moves on Rutherford refinery

Wednesday’s mediastatement prompted outrage from Maitland’s Labor state MP Jenny Aitchison, who questioned the government’s efforts to warn residents of the contamination.

Ms Aitchisonsaid shefirst heard about advice against usingcreek waterthrough media reports.

She said she had spoken with nearby landowners who were unaware that PFAS had been found in the creeks.

“I have no faith that the EPA has contacted the people it says it has contacted,” Ms Aitchison toldParliament on Thursday evening.

“I am aware that livestock is grazing near both Stony and Swamp [Fishery]creeks near Telarah.”

Ms Upton’s office referred the Fairfax Media’s questions to the EPA.

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