Testing at a number of Crown-owned sites has shown the presence of PFAS compounds above interim guidelines recently adopted by the Ministry of Health. Government agencies are working as a priority to fully understand the extent and possible impact of the problem. Investigations so far have focused on sites that have used specialist firefighting foams.
Affected organisations, communities and individuals are being actively kept informed of progress, and test results are being given to property and land owners.
New Zealand Defence Force
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) found PFOS and PFHxS in soil and groundwater from the historic use of firefighting foams at Ohakea and Woodbourne air force bases. Detailed investigations are continuing to understand the extent and seasonal variation of PFAS in the environment at and around these bases. Investigations are also underway to understand whether use of firefighting foams at Whenuapai Air Base and Devonport Naval Base has led to contamination. The outcomes of the ongoing NZDF investigations will continue to be made available on the MfE website. The NZDF are working with the respective councils at each site.
Horizons Regional Council
Horizons Regional Council are working with Rangitikei District Council to investigate the source of the low level (below the drinking water interim guidance level) of PFOS found in the Bulls water supply. The Bulls water supply remains safe to drink.
The NZDF investigated the site of a RNZAF Skyhawk crash in 1996 where foam was reportedly used. Samples of groundwater near the site found no detection of PFAS contamination.
Horizons Regional Council are working with Palmerston North City Council to investigate contamination of soil and surface water from the historic use of firefighting foams at Palmerston North Airport.
Taranaki Regional Council
Eels in two South Taranaki streams (the Oaonui and Ngapirau) have been found to have elevated levels of PFAS chemicals – the only finding of note in a wide-ranging regional investigation into any such contamination. Locals have received advice from the Ministry of Primary Industries on reducing consumption of eels from the streams.
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)
The EPA is investigating fire-fighting foams manufactured using PFOS or PFOA that are held or being used at airports and other locations. This is part of the EPA’s compliance responsibilities under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ)
In coordination with local government, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is working to identify and assess risk at its fire training sites around the country where foams containing PFAS (Class B foams) may have been used. Please note that 95% of firefighting foam used by Fire and Emergency New Zealand is Class A foam which does not contain any PFAS compounds.