ACT Fire and Rescue says no fire fighting trucks carry extinguishers with the toxic PFAS foam despite Emergency Services Agency head Dominic Lane's suggestion that they do.
Mr Lane told The Canberra Times there was a small number of extinguishers kept by the department that were filled with aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) that contained potentially harmful polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on the fire trucks. He said that they were being phased out.
"They are not only on fire trucks, they are at petrol stations and in homes. Those nine-litre canisters still exist,” Mr Lane told The Canberra Times.
“Within ACT Fire and Rescue we have come up with a solution [but] I don’t think they have all been removed.
“[It] took longer than we anticipated, but they are being progressively removed.”
However, on Monday the head of ACT Fire and Rescue, Mark Brown, said in a radio interview that Mr Lane had "been misquoted or there’s a bit of miscommunication."
"I’m not sure why The Canberra Times has reported that we do [carry the extinguishers]," he said ...
"I can assure you that on a fire and rescue vehicle in Canberra today there are no extinguishers that contain a PFAS compound," he said.
Later the agency backtracked and said Mr Lane's comments about PFAS still being carried on trucks were "inadvertent".
When asked to explain the discrepancy between the two comments, an Emergency Services Agency spokesperson said, "ACT Emergency Services Agency wishes to reassure the community that foam concentrates containing PFAS are no longer used. These were phased out in 2005 and portable extinguishers were replaced in 2017 with fluorine-free foam."
"In a lengthy interview with The Canberra Times, any suggestion to the contrary was inadvertent."
In December 2017, senior officials from the ACT environment directorate told Environment Minister Mick Gentleman that PFAS was still being carried by territory fire trucks.
The ESA spokesperson said this briefing contained outdated advice.
"The December 2017 briefing you reference was not prepared by the ACT Emergency Services Agency and did not contain the most up to date information available at that time," the spokesperson said.
All foam-containing extinguishers were phased out by ACT Fire and Rescue in early 2017, the spokesperson said.