The federal government is considering its "management options" for a potential [phase-out of some toxic chemicals once used in fire-fighting foams, in the wake of a spill near Brisbane Airport nearly two weeks ago.
The Queensland government has already banned use of the PFAS chemicals and the Defence department is facing two class actions linked to contamination at airbases near Oakey in the state and Williamtown, NSW.
It comes as the federal government also considers wide-ranging reforms to the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, which assesses such substances, which The Canberra Times has previously reported prompted concerns about the protection of public health and the environment.
After a spill of up to 22,000 litres of fire-fighting foams containing the chemicals at a Qantas-owned hangar at Brisbane Airport, federal infrastructure minister Darren Chester has indicated the Commonwealth may now consider "phasing out" the substances.
It is understood the vast majority of the spilt foams were contained in the hangar, although fishing bans remain in place in nearby Boggy Creek, although the creek as been reopened to recreational activity.
The spill led to a fresh round of calls for the chemicals to be banned nationally, calls which have previously fallen on deaf ears in Canberra, despite the Defence-related class actions and on-going wrangling between airports and the government over what to do about potential contamination elsewhere.
Mr Chester said in a statement the government was now considering the "transitional removal" of the chemicals used in the foams.
"While it is known PFAS can persist for a long time, there is no consistent evidence that PFAS exposure is harmful to human health," he said.
"The government is considering management options for PFOS and PFOA transitional removal from use, improved management and appropriate disposal of PFOS-containing firefighting foams at all facilities in Australia, consistent with the listing of the chemical under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants."
Mr Chester said a number of Commonwealth agencies were working with the Queensland government, Qantas and others to "ensure the spill is managed correctly and in line with respective jurisdictional regulations".
Daniel Burdon is a reporter for The Canberra Times