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Byron Shire
October 23, 2021

Gold Coast Airport pollution ‘could have spread 20km’

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Tweed District Residents & Ratepayers Association president Lindy Smith has accused Gold Coast Airport management and Airservices Australia of ‘deliberately obfuscating’ over pollution from toxic firefighting foam that has leached into surface and groundwater around the airport and which, she says, may have spread as far as 20 kilometres.

The firefighters’ union yesterday called on the government to provide mandatory testing of all aviation firefighters who have worked at the site for the highly toxic of Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) but Ms Smith said the problem goes much deeper, and could potentially affect residents in NSW as well as Queensland.

‘Both the Airport and Airservices Australia have known since 2008 that the groundwater was contaminated. In 2011 they had confirmation that Coolangatta Creek, which runs through the airport, was also contaminated – and yet they proceeded with two developments that included substantial clearing and massive earthworks and disturbance of soils, surface and groundwater,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘Through the entire process of the Instrument Landing System development they never disclosed that there was groundwater contamination or that Coolangatta Creek was contaminated.

‘It brings into really serious question the withholding of that information because that has prevented proper and adequate consideration, not only by the community, but by local and state authorities in the public exhibition process,’ Ms Smith said.

Bore water affected

She added that two weeks ago, data released by Airservices showed Billinga and Tugun residential areas to the east of the airport contain contaminated groundwater.

‘It is above drinking water levels – and those communities have used that water for many decades,’ she said.

‘It borders on contempt that it has taken from 2008 until the week before last for results of sampling to have been released for that residential area when it’s known that residents use the bore water.

‘We certainly know from other sites that it has spread extensively. At Oakey Airport I think it’s in the range of 20-odd kilometres and that’s the situation at Williamtown Airport as well,’ she said.

Airport’s ‘conflict of interest’

Yesterday, the United Firefighters Union called on Airservices Australia to offer full blood tests to check for levels of PFAS, which is linked to cancers and other health impacts and has been widely used at airports across Australia for decades.

‘Aviation firefighters, past and present need mandatory blood testing as a matter of urgency. They want to know if their blood is toxic so they can manage their health,’ Aviation Branch Secretary Henry Lawrence said.

ABC radio yesterday reported that the airport had told staff who had concerns to ‘contact the airport’.

But Ms Smith said the airport’s response revealed ‘a conflict of interest’.

‘The airport is a private company, so the bottom line is about profits, and the huge expansion plans for the airport.

‘It’s highly inappropriate [that they should be managing the issue] and I’m calling for an independent body to be set up to manage these sites across Australia.’

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  1. Shocking thing. The Fireies are getting cancer… Wouldn’t want to live with the airport near by. In Coolie they are discouraged from growing any edible food in their yards
    Better check that Tyagarah Airport dose NOT have fire drill training using foam and make sure all spills and foam chemicals are NOT ever used here… EVER. The pollution is mainly from Fire Drills…. And thank you 3M for supplying us and Thanks to the airport governing bodies that continued to use it AFTER 3M banned it

  2. At the 21 September 2017 Council meeting Greens Mayor Katie Milne tabled a motion seconded by Cr Chris Cherry as follows:-

    that Council:

    1. Notes that aircraft emit fine particulate matter that poses a health risk to humans.

    2. Notes the only air quality monitoring station in the vicinity is 80km from the airport at Springwood in Qld and no air quality monitoring station for NSW was referred to in the 2017 masterplan.

    3. Writes to the Federal Minister for the Environment to request that comprehensive, specific and targeted air quality monitoring is undertaken for Tweed and Gold Coast residents affected by aircraft emissions and a report be provided to Council and made publicly accessible.

    The motion was successful; however Councillors Warren Polglase from Banora Point, Liberal Cr James Owen from Casuarina and Pryce Allsop from Murwillumbah voted against the motion.

    I can’t understand why Crs Polglase,Owen and Allsop vote against the motion when people living in Tweed, Banora and Casuarina are affected by the airport !!! ????

  3. The article published above is no doubt very scary. Scary for the local inhabitants specially for those who lives within the 20 KM radius of the Airport for such instance like Coolangatta as well as other airports who conducts such drills. As a very responsible inhabitant of this area I wonder why didn’t the airport or council authority try finding our the alternative drilling method then? The question similarly arise here then what happens to the other airports worldwide? What maneuvour do they follow for drill purpose? If Gold coast inhabitants are affected then the other people who lives surrounding the radius of the airport must suffer the same consequence!

    Anyway it is no doubt a very threatening news for all of us and we hope that the council and the aviation authority will try finding the best alternative of such drills and they should have done so by this time quite a long time earlier! It doesn’t seem to me at all that those council or airport authority people do really care for our health safety! People should protest about it and contact with the parliamentarians for ensuring the safety of their own health and it can’t be ignored.


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