Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi visits PFAS affected residents in Williamtown

MEETING: Senator Mehreen Faruqi discusses the impact of PFAS contamination with red zone residents Jenny Robinson and Linden Drysdale. Photo: Ellie Marie Watts
MEETING: Senator Mehreen Faruqi discusses the impact of PFAS contamination with red zone residents Jenny Robinson and Linden Drysdale. Photo: Ellie Marie Watts

A Williamtown 'red zone' resident has told Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi during her visit to the PFAS contamination zone last week that she and some of her neighbours were in for "a fight till the death".

Linden Drysdale was part of a small delegation of Cabbage Tree Road residents to meet with the Senator, who has labelled the government as "cruel" for leaving Port Stephens residents in limbo for almost a year since the parliamentary committee into PFAS contamination handed down its report calling for strong action.

The government says it would respond to the inquiry "as soon as possible".

Ms Drysdale said she wanted to meet with Senator Faruqi to personally thank her for taking up the fight "for the little people".

"The big people - the politicians in Canberra - don't listen to us little people ... we are grateful to have a senator who is willing to listen and act for us," she said. "We are the ones who are living this nightmare 24/7 and we are not going to stop fighting, even it means till the death."

Standing outside the RAAF base at Williamtown last Thursday with many of her Greens party and Climate Action Port Stephens supporters, Senator Faruqi was strong in her condemnation of the federal government, calling on them to immediately respond to the inquiry recommendations handed down last November.

Residents with Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi at Williamtown on Thursday, October 3.

Residents with Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi at Williamtown on Thursday, October 3.

"It is the height of arrogance for this government to refuse to respond to the community and also a Senate Inquiry. The people of Williamtown/Salt Ash have waited long enough. I will be demanding an explanation from the government when parliament resumes next Monday," she said.

Following months of delays from the government, Senator Faruqi successfully passed a parliamentary motion through the Senate in September to try and force the government to release its response, but to date it has refused to comply.

A spokesperson for the Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management said that the government, whose action to date responding to PFAS contamination had been extensive, was carefully considering the recommendations of the inquiry and would respond as soon as possible.

"The government recognises that managing PFAS contamination is a complex issue. It requires an effective, evidence-based, nationally consistent response, based on the best available scientific evidence. The government's action and investment to date in responding to PFAS contamination has been extensive and there has been regular contact with the communities affected."

The inquiry, which Senator Faruqi sat on, recommended among other things, provision of a compensation scheme and the possibility of buybacks, assistance to property owners and businesses in the affected areas and the appointment of a coordinator-general to manage the national response to PFAS.

"Ultimately, the federal government must take responsibility for the PFAS pollution. The community has waited and suffered long enough. It's time for action."

The University of Newcastle, meanwhile, had received more than $1.4 million in Australian Research Council funding for two of the four national research projects selected in round two of the PFAS Remediation Research Program.

Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, from the Priority Research Centre for Frontier Energy Technologies and Utilisation received $820,000, while $589,007 was awarded to Dr Cheng Fang at the University's Global Centre for Environmental Remediation.

Professor Moghtaderi and his team are researching the novel poly-generation thermal process for combined destruction of and resource recovery from PFAS-contaminated matter.

"We're trying to determine the fundamental science underpinning the creation of a PFAS harvester and identify operating conditions necessary to support its commercial rollout."

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