Testing at a number of sites has shown the presence of PFAS compounds above interim guidance levels adopted by the Ministry of Health. Government agencies and regional councils 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, although the environmental extent of PFAS from household consumer and industrial applications is becoming more widely understood.
Affected organisations, communities and individuals are being actively kept informed of progress, and test results and reports are being given to property and land owners.
New Zealand Defence Force
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) found PFOS in soil and groundwater from the historic use of firefighting foams at Ohakea, Woodbourne, and Whenuapai air force bases, and at Devonport naval base. Detailed investigations have been conducted to establish the current state and predict the likely future extent of PFAS in the environment at and around these bases.
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.
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)
The EPA is investigating fire-fighting foams manufactured using PFOS or PFOA that are held or being used at locations such as airports, ports, and oil storage sites across New Zealand. This is part of the EPA’s compliance responsibilities under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.
Further information can be found on the EPA website.
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. More information on the assessments can be found on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website here.
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.
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.
Further information can be found on the Horizons Regional Council website.
Taranaki Regional Council
Taranaki Regional Council conducted a wide-ranging regional investigation into PFAS contamination during 2018. Elevated levels of PFAS were found in groundwater at five sites: New Plymouth airport, the Paritūtū tank farm, the Omata tank farm, and the Māui Production Station and adjacent Hot Fire Training Facility at Oaonui. In each case, the groundwater is not known to be used to supply water for human or stock consumption.
Eels in two South Taranaki streams (the Oaonui and Ngapirau) were found to have elevated levels of PFAS chemicals. Locals have received advice from the Ministry of Primary Industries on reducing consumption of eels from the streams. Further information can be found on the Taranaki Regional Council website.