PFAS test results indicate 'no additional precautions' required when eating seafood from Tuggerah Lakes

WARNING: Signs erected in 2017 at the power station cooling canal, Hammond Canal, where it enters Tuggerah Lakes at San Remo. Picture: David Stewart

WARNING: Signs erected in 2017 at the power station cooling canal, Hammond Canal, where it enters Tuggerah Lakes at San Remo. Picture: David Stewart

TESTING has confirmed fish and prawns caught in Tuggerah Lakes are safe to eat, the NSW Environment Protection Authority said today.

The testing was carried out after concerns were raised about per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) passing into the estuary from the Munmorah and Colongra power stations.

PFAS were historically used in fire-fighting foams at large industrial premises such as power stations.

They were also used around defence bases, and Williamtown has been the focus of ongoing investigations into the PFAS contamination of soils and possible serious health impacts on residents there.

In 2017, PFAS were detected in preliminary testing at Munmorah and Colongra power stations, but the EPA moved quickly to allay the fears of residents who lived near the power stations.

"The presence of PFAS in the environment does not necessarily mean there is a human health risk," the EPA said in a fact sheet delivered to residents at the time.

And NSW Health said this: "In humans, there is no conclusive evidence that PFASs cause any specific illnesses, including cancer."

The result of the testing announced today is more good news for residents.

"Residents can continue consuming seafood from the Tuggerah Lakes system after testing for PFAS revealed no additional precautions were required when consuming school prawns, eastern king prawns or whiting, the EPA said.

PFAS testing was carried out following concerns in 2017 that PFAS chemicals from Munmorah and Colongra power stations had made their way into the Tuggerah Lakes system. Fishing remains banned in Hammond Canal. Picture: David Stewart

PFAS testing was carried out following concerns in 2017 that PFAS chemicals from Munmorah and Colongra power stations had made their way into the Tuggerah Lakes system. Fishing remains banned in Hammond Canal. Picture: David Stewart

For 12 months Snowy Hydro Limited, as part of their PFAS investigations at Colongra Power Station, had been sampling and testing a range of popular edible fish and prawn species for PFAS, to determine if consumption of these species was a risk to the community.

"The NSW PFAS Taskforce analysed the prawn and whiting results and determined that no precautionary dietary advice in relation to PFAS is required," the EPA said.

The prawn and whiting results were in line with 2018 testing that showed that the community could safely consume sea mullet, yellowfin bream, dusky flathead, luderick and silver biddy caught from Tuggerah Lakes.

EPA strategic regulation manager David Gathercole said a rigorous PFAS testing regime had been completed and the results were good news for the community.

"The community can feel safe in the knowledge that there are no additional consumption restrictions on local seafood, fish or prawns from the Tuggerah Lakes," he said.

The EPA is encouraging locals to note general advice from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, which is to limit seafood consumption to two-to-three serves of seafood a week, as part of a balanced diet.

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