12 Jun 2018

Council orders NZDF not to discharge stormwater with firefighting foam

9:10 pm on 12 June 2018

A central North Island regional council has ordered the Defence Force to stop discharging stormwater with firefighting foam in it.

The perimeter of Ohakea

The perimeter of Ohakea Photo: RNZ / Phil Pennington

Horizons Regional Council, in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, today issued the Defence Force with an abatement notice to stop unauthorised discharges.

It said defence could no longer put water containing firefighting foam - which may contain toxins and long-lasting chemicals - down stormwater drains.

That included water that had been used to wash foam off fire trucks or onto land near the fire training area where it may enter waterways.

The council has been investigating the foam, which was used in training at its Ōhakea airbase. Chemicals have since been discovered in several areas across the region.

The council had accused the Defence Force of blocking it from getting the information it needed to investigate the foam.

Defence has previously said it had not used the polluting foam since 2002, and maintained that any contamination was historic.

However, it was still using and storing foams that contained fluorine and chemical compounds that are known to break down into a banned chemical.

Nic Peet from the regional council said a formal investigation had revealed enough information for it to warrant its action.

"I think you can take from the fact that we've issued an abatement notice that we certainly believe that it has happened and there'd be potential for it ot happen in the future so that the notice is essentially a notice to cease."

The use of the potentially toxic foams has been under investigation by an all-of-government team, which expanded the inquiry to include water and soil contamination last month.