Northern Territory Government Newsroom

PFAS Reports Released for Rapid and Ludmilla Creeks

The Territory Labor Government has today released the results of PFAS testing done in waterways around Rapid Creek and Ludmilla Creek.

The Minister for Health Natasha Fyles said the research detected levels of PFAS in aquatic foods like long bums, periwinkles, crustaceans and fish, but outlined those foods can still be eaten without exceeding the national Health Based Guidance Values (HGBV).

“Territorian’s have the right to enjoy safe and vibrant communities – fishing and crabbing around Darwin creeks is very much a part of that lifestyle,” she said.

“Current research is inconclusive and it’s not known if exposure to PFAS causes any significant health problems in people, but the potential for adverse health effects can’t be ignored.

“The Commonwealth is taking a precautionary approach to this emerging national issue, introducing some of the most conservative guidelines in the world to ensure Australians minimise their exposure to PFAS.”

Per- and Poly – Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of chemical compounds used in a variety of products including non-stick cook wear, scotch guards and the old firefighting foams used at Commonwealth operated Defence and airport sites around the country.

Although PFAS refers to a broad group of chemicals, national guidance has been developed for three specific chemicals known as:

The NT Department of Health last year commissioned a study to gauge the levels of PFAS in aquatic foods in waterways around Ludmilla and Rapid Creeks.

Results for the Phase 1 testing were released in 2016, but the figures have been revised to reflect with new national guidance for PFAS developed by FSANZ in April this year.

Researchers at CDU have concluded that even with the reduced guidance values there’s minimal risk to most consumers harvesting aquatic foods like periwinkles and long bums from the creeks tested.

The research indicated a person would need to regularly consume significant quantities of seafood, taken exclusively from those creeks, for a number of days each week over their entire life to exceed the Guidance Value. They say the chances of that happening are greater than 1 in 10,000.

Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie said neither study was intended to provide a comprehensive dietary assessment for aquatic seafood in Darwin waterways, but rather to increase the broader understanding of the extent of PFAS contamination in the Darwin waterways and to assist in the development of the Detailed Site Investigation being undertaken by the Department of Defence for RAAF base Darwin.

“The UQ research assessed the dietary exposure of PFAS in different fish and crustaceans from three Darwin sites affected by PFAS,” he said.

“Samples of different aquatic species were provided by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics (DIPL), from three locations; Rapid Creek, Ludmilla Creek and Bleesers Creek. Different parts of these species were analysed for PFAS levels.

“The research shows that the recommended seafood intake remains the same that it has been for many decades - an average 3 serves of these foods per week for an adult and 2 for a pregnant woman or a child.

“Fish and other aquatic species are highly nutritious foods and a source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals and should be eaten as part of a varied and balance diet. However overconsumption of these is not recommended because it may lead to potentially higher intake of harmful substances such as mercury.”

The Northern Territory Minister for Health will continue to lobby for Territorians to receive the same support as other Australian communities affected by PFAS and will write to the Federal Health Minister about these results.

Media Contacts:

Minister for Health Natasha Fyles  - Laetitia Lemke 0418 973 602

Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie – Sally Edwards 0491 228 375

Phase 1 Testing

Phase 2 Testing