A Labor senator has urged the people of Wreck Bay to demand compensation from the federal government after a creek frequently used by the small community was contaminated by dangerous carcinogenic foam used for firefighting on a nearby defence facility.
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy was part of a joint parliamentary inquiry which has recommended compensation be paid to other communities contaminated by PFAS chemicals used in firefighting foam, but Wreck Bay was not part of the inquiry.
“I would urge the people of Wreck Bay to write straight to the Morrison government and ask that this [recommendations] begin immediately,” she told NITV News.
“The next step now is for the government to implement the recommendations, I would encourage the people of Wreck Bay to be knocking on the doors of the prime minister and say ‘what are you doing? Help us.”
For years, PFAS leached from nearby navel base HMAS Creswell into Mary Creek, which runs through the Aboriginal community. But authorities took months to close the contaminated creek after the positive test results. During that period the community used the creek for swimming, fishing and drinking water.
PFAS, which stands for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals, is used in firefighting foam and has contaminated land around 26 Defence bases, including Williamtown in New South Wales and Katherine in the Northern Territory.
The parliamentary inquiry made nine recommendations, including a further review into the health effects caused by PFAS and a coordinator-general to oversee contamination levels at numerous sites.
Committee chair Liberal MP Andrew Laming said no family or property and business owners should be trapped on contaminated land.
"They shouldn't be prevented from selling because of the effects of a pollutant for which they are not responsible."
In June, it was revealed in documents released under freedom of information to Fairfax Media that toxic foam run-off from a nearby defence facility had contaminated a creek at Wreck Bay.
More recently, the Department of Defence told NITV News initial findings of their investigation indicate PFAS is present on the Jervis Bay Range Facility in soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater.
“Based on surface water runoff and groundwater flows, there is a potential for PFAS to have travelled off the Jervis Bay Range Facility to Mary Creek,” a Department of Defence spokesperson said.
“Defence has put considerable resources into conducting the environmental investigation promptly, while respecting the Indigenous culture and unique access requirements of the area.”
However, the department has said there is "no consistent evidence" showing PFOS and PFOA chemicals have health risks to human exposure.
A community information session will be held on Wednesday to present the findings of a detailed investigation to both Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay communities.