Heavy toll on Williamtown and Salt Ash residents living in the PFAS contamination zone

FED UP: Salt Ash's Simon Hull has called on the government "to man up and take responsibility for damages" to impacted residents over the PFAS contamination issue.
FED UP: Salt Ash's Simon Hull has called on the government "to man up and take responsibility for damages" to impacted residents over the PFAS contamination issue.

The fallout from the exposure to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination and the federal government's continued refusal to compensate householders in the Williamtown-Salt Ash area was causing more mental anguish for some residents.

Despite Department of Defence claims that it remains committed to working with the community since undertaking a detailed environmental investigation within the contamination zone around Williamtown RAAF Base, there have been reports of a growing number of people near breaking point both physically and mentally.

The toll taken on Simon Hull, who lives on Lemon Tree Passage Road in Salt Ash which is part of the broader management zone, has been enormous. And he says he is not alone.

"My business has taken a hit, my health is suffering but I am coping, others are suffering in silence. I haven't been game enough to go and get tested by the doctors," Mr Hull, a water carter, said.

A Defence spokesperson said that the department had acknowledged the Williamtown community's concerned about how PFAS may affect them, and was committed to providing support.

"While it is known that PFAS can persist in humans, animals and the environment, there is no consistent evidence that PFAS are harmful to human health. However, as this possibility cannot be excluded, it is recommended that exposure be minimised wherever possible as a precaution while research into any potential health effects continues," a Defence statement said.

"As at June 11, 2019, Defence was providing bottled water to 27 properties in the Williamtown Management Area and has funded town water connections for 307 residents.

"To supplement existing government-funded mental health services, additional resources have been provided to the local primary health network to deliver additional face-to-face support services to individuals experiencing distress."

Simon Hull has been forced to watch his fruit go rotten for fear of PFAS contamination.

Simon Hull has been forced to watch his fruit go rotten for fear of PFAS contamination.

The spokesperson said that the government was also funding a Voluntary Blood Testing Program in the WIlliamtown area and an epidemiological study to help authorities better understand the potential impacts of PFAS to human health.

Mr Hull said that confusion still reigned over water testing.

"I had my tank and bore water tested [for contamination] and they came back negative, but my next door neighbour's water came back positive," he said.

"The EPA and Hunter Health informed me that it was unsafe to eat produce from the broader management area so I had to give away my 16 chooks, plus a handful of ducks and geese.

"I also had to remove fruit trees and a vegetable garden. Our property value has dropped."

Mr Hull said he has been tempted to take his protest to Parliament House in Canberra in his water truck, "just to let the politicians understand the impact this saga is having on us".

"Taxpayers money is consumed on consultants, spin doctors, glossy brochures and the legal fraternity," he said. "This government has tried plausible denial and a good dose of inaction. It's time they manned up and took responsibility."

Mr Hull said that his seasonal business was trucking water to homes and believed that being the locally based water carter he would be contracted to do the job "but I delivered not one drop".

"Now that town water has been connected, my business has taken another hit."

A Hunter Water spokesperson said that since December 2017, the organisation had delivered 5.5 million litres of water by tankers to residents.

"Two water carters were used - they are from a prequalified list used for Hunter Water operations," the spokesperson said.

"More than 91 per cent of the 339 residents are now connected to the reticulated network. The $8 million project funded by Defence has involved Hunter Water installing more than 14 kilometres of new water mains."

With no compensation forthcoming, Mr Hull has been forced to diversify his business interests.

Comments