Fiskville foam contamination - Government response

Published:  28 November, 2016

The Government response to the parliamentary committee report into the contamination of the CFA firefighters' training college at Fiskville with PFCs was tabled in November in the Victorian Parliament, Australia.  

The response covers each of the 31 recommendations made by the committee in its final report, published in May 2016. In each case, the Government has indicated its support for the recommendation, either in full, in principle, or in part. Where its support is in principle or in part, the Government notes that it agrees with the recommendation but believes ‘further analysis is required or the intent of the recommendation can be achieved in a different way’.

Recommendation six calls on the Victorian Government to introduce potable water as standard for firefighting training at all facilities. In supporting the recommendation, the Government notes that it will also implement any necessary additional treatment processes to ensure water at training facilities is safe for use.

Other recommendations relate to health and safety at the CFA, including that the Emergency Management Victoria Inspectorate be given responsibility for overseeing health and safety compliance at CFA training facilities. In response, the Government has requested that that Inspector-General for Emergency Management develop an assurance framework that will allow for monitoring the safety of the operations at Victoria’s emergency management training facilities, to be undertaken in consultation with Worksafe.

Similarly, relating to a recommendation concerning the EPA’s powers to take pre-emptive action to prevent pollution, the Government notes that critical gaps have been identified in the EPA’s regulatory toolkit. Its response to the separate EPA inquiry recommending a general preventative duty for the EPA is due later this year.

Critically, the Government supports in full the recommendation to investigate the development of a Maximum Residue Limit for PFOS and other PFCs. However, its response references the Australian interim national guidance on human health reference values for PFOS and PFOA published by EnHealth in June 2016, but this was criticised for setting tolerable daily intake values at more than 78 times higher than those set in May by the US EPA. The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code is conducting further research and its final report is expected in 2017. Any new values published at this point will supersede those in the interim statement.

The Government supports in principle recommendations 21-27, which all relate to human health and include inviting the German Environment Agency to brief Victorian health and environment regulators about the latest evidence regarding PFCs and human health, and that all Victorian firefighters should be monitored for PFC levels and provided with appropriate health advice. In its response to this point, the Government confirmed its commitment to developing a First Responder Health Programme designed to improve health outcomes for emergency responders.

Finally, the Government has said that it supports the intent of the recommendation to set up a dedicated redress scheme for those affected by the Fiskville contamination and will ‘consider the many complex issues associated with a redress scheme, including funding arrangements’.

The final report is available here.

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