18 Oct 2018

Water samples toxic at Auckland airbase

8:53 pm on 18 October 2018

Firefighting foam contamination has been found above safety trigger points in some samples around Whenuapai airbase in Auckland.

Whenuapai Air Base - RNZAF Base Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

A small number of fish samples have PFAS chemicals in them at food safety levels that should trigger further investigations, the Auckland Council said.

Two out of 12 surface water samples exceeded the recreational water guidelines for health.

Surface water, groundwater and sediment testing in most cases has the contamination at levels under the safety guidelines.

"No drinking water is affected," a council statement said.

"PFAS compounds are not present in deep bores, those between 200-300 metres in depth, that might be used as local water sources. In addition, drinking water in the area comes from the town supply and is not affected."

As for the fish, though Food Safety Australia and New Zealand trigger values were exceeded, "these levels are below the Ministry for Primary Industries PFOS food safety risk consumption guidelines for fresh or marine fish".

Twelve properties neighbouring the airbase have had tests.

No testing has taken place at the nearby Hobsonville Point housing development although firefighters say wastewater from Whenuapai was dumped there over the years.

The results of tests at Devonport naval base are expected by the end of the year.

Earlier tests at the base showed some very high levels of contamination in monitoring wells, and low levels in the mudflats and in Ngataringa Bay.

The results follow six weeks of tests at Auckland sites led by the Defence Force as part of nation-wide investigations into contamination from PFOS, PFOA and PFHxS - compounds that are long-lasting, accumulate in the body over time, and have been linked - so far inconclusively - to cancer and other conditions.

"The Defence Force is currently undertaking further analysis of sediment and biota results," the council said.

RNZ has requested the Defence Force release the whole report.

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