Wish for a Christmas without PFAS worry

Signs along Nelson Bay Road, Salt Ash, September 2018. Picture: Marina Neil
Signs along Nelson Bay Road, Salt Ash, September 2018. Picture: Marina Neil

All Port Stephens resident Julie Nixon is asking for is a Christmas without PFAS.

Sadly, for the long time Salt Ash woman and thousands like her who live within the Williamtown RAAF 'contamination zone', she knows it won't happen.

"This Christmas makes five for those living in the Defence's PFAS disaster zone at Williamtown. We deserve a chance to enjoy our Christmas, it is a season to celebrate family, to leave the cares behind and just live in the moment."

And Ms Nixon says she is grateful that Defence says they currently have no plans for any more drop-in sessions before the end of the year.

Ms Nixon, who helped set up the Community Wellbeing Program, said she would continue to advocate for those in the community where, sadly, leaving this disaster behind is not an option.

"For many the financial stress of leaving is as daunting as waking up each day in the red zone. Our community is the underdog and I was brought up to stand up for the underdog."

Ms Nixon said that she recently completed a course on recognising domestic violence, "because I know the stress levels our community is being placed under".

"I cried today as many no longer love nor feel safe in their homes. For some there is no way out, for others the way is made so much harder because they are tired, exhausted because they have been living in a constant state of 'fight or flight'," she said.

"So many families are dealing with so much more than PFAS, failing health, financial burdens, the list is long and varied."

Dr John McVeigh, newly appointed chair of the PFAS Sub Committee and a federal representative of a region (Oakey) also very heavily impacted by PFAS related issues, said he was aware of the considerable toll PFAS had taken on impacted communities.

"Whist we await the government's response to those reports, we have announced public hearings on federal government department on their updated activities under the 'National PFAS Investigation and Management Program' since the election. The sub-committee will then invite community input on our findings in the near future."

A Defence spokesperson said Defence remained committed to communicating with the Williamtown community throughout the remediation and ongoing management of PFAS in the area.

"In the coming months Defence will publish a community newsletter which will contain information and updates on the remediation activities Defence is undertaking."

Residents with mental health or anxiety concerns are encouraged to contact the Williamtown community liaison officer, Sharon Nelmes, to discuss what support mechanisms best suit their circumstance.

Phone 0436 655 285.

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