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PFAS Investigation &
Management Program

Glossary

Glossary


The vocabulary used in Defence PFAS investigations is often technical and may be unfamiliar to readers.

The table below sets these acronyms and terms out in the categories of PFAS and Other Chemicals; Environmental Investigations; Government Agencies; and The Environment. The tab on the far right of the table displays all of the terms in alphabetical order.

If you are looking for the definition of a term that we have not catalogued, please lodge a request using the ‘Feedback’ link in the bottom-right of the webpage.


PFAS and Other ChemicalsChem-
icals
Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)

Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) has been used in Australia and worldwide for many years, to assist with fire training drills, emergency/disaster event training, by government and private sector organsations.

AFFF is the most effective fire-fighting medium for liquid fuel fires to ensure human safety in emergency situations. AFFF acts quickly to smother fuel, preventing contact with oxygen by adding a thin film of foam over the fire.


Per-and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water.

The release of PFAS into the environment has become a concern, because we’ve learned these chemicals can persist in humans, animals and the environment.

There is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects. As these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution.


Perfluorohexane Sulphonate (PFHxS)

Perfluorohexane sulphonate (PFHxS) was also commonly found in the legacy firefighting foams, as an impurity in the manufacturing process.


Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was also an active ingredient used to the production of the legacy firefighting foams. In the past, foams containing this substance have been used at a number of Defence sites, for training and real-world fire exercises.


Perfluorooctane Sulphonate (PFOS)

Perfluorooctane Sulphonate (PFOS) was used as an active ingredient in the production of legacy firefighting foams. In the past, foams containing this substance have been used at a number of Defence sites, for training and real-world fire exercises.


Surfactants

Surfactants (or surface acting agents) help fire-fighting foam “stick” to the liquid fuel to smother a fire and put it out.

Environmental InvestigationsEnviron-
mental Investi-
gations

Detailed Environmental Investigation

A Detailed Environmental Investigation is the overarching term used to describe the activities being conducted by the Department of Defence, in relation to exploring the nature and extent of PFAS contamination. These investigations are conducted in accordance with the Australian National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (NEPM).

There are three main steps to the investigation process: a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI); a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI); and a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment. The Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment are only conducted if the results of the DSI deem it is necessary.

There are Detailed Environmental Investigations underway at a number of locations across the Defence estate.


Conceptual Site Model (CSM)

The Conceptual Site Model (CSM) is a visual cross-section of a particular Defence site and its surrounds; used to indicate where and when legacy fire-fighting foam was used (sources), how PFAS might move in the environment (migration pathways) and the people, animals and the environment that may be exposed to PFAS (receptors). The CSM is continually revised as the environmental investigation progresses.


Detailed Site Investigation (DSI)

A Detailed Site Investigation is the second stage of a detailed environmental investigation. This stage includes sampling, analysis and interpretation of soil, water, plants, animals and other environmental media which may be affected by PFAS contamination. A DSI identifies the areas where legacy firefighting foam was previously used (source areas) and how far it has spread in the environment. Depending on the outcomes of a DSI, a human health and/or ecological risk assessment may be required.


Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA)

Occasionally Ecological Risk Assessments are conducted independent of a Human Health Risk Assessment. This is dependent on the findings of the Detailed Site Investigation. The Ecological Risk Assessment evaluates any risks that PFAS contamination may pose to animals and the environment; to inform management activities.


Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

An Environmental Site Assessment (a discontinued term) is equivalent to the current DSI. ESA’s were undertaken at Williamtown and Oakey and included sampling, analysis and interpretation of soil, water, plants, animals and other environmental media which may be affected by PFAS contamination.

The outcomes of the ESA were used to inform the HHERA for both Williamtown and Oakey.


Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (HHERA)

These Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments are conducted to evaluate potential risk to people animals and the environment, and inform any management plans.

If the DSI identifies that contamination is present and sensitive ecological receptors such as marine life, plants or animals may be affected or that humans may have the potential to be exposed to the contamination, an assessment will be undertaken into the risk of PFAS contamination to human health and the environment.


Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA)

Occasionally Human Health Risk Assessments are conducted independent of an ecological assessment. This is dependent on the findings on the Detailed Site Investigation.

The Human Health Risk Assessment evaluates any risks that PFAS contamination may pose to people in the vicinity of the investigation area; to inform management activities.


HMAS

HMAS is a common prefix attached to ships in the Royal Australian Navy. It stands for Her (or His) Majesty’s Australian Ship.


Investigation/Study Area

An Investigation/Study Area defines the current extent of the environmental investigation. This area can expand or contract depending on the findings of the investigation.

Most (but not all) soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water sampling will take place inside the Investigation Area.


Jervis Bay Territory (JBT)

Jervis Bay Territory is the proper name of the territory situated around the Jervis Bay Range Facility.


Limit of Reporting (LOR)

The limit of reporting (LOR) is the lowest concentration level that the laboratory is able to measure in a sample with a reasonable degree of certainly. Where the laboratory results show a result below limit of reporting, it means that if PFAS is present in the sample it is too low for the laboratory to measure with any degree of certainty.


Management Area

The Management Area is the geographical outline of the zone where PFAS remediation and management activities are likely to occur.

This area may be similar to, or evolved from, the Investigation/Study Area, depending on the findings of the Detailed Environmental Investigation.


National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM)

This is the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure. It is process and guidance document, which has established a nationally consistent approach to environmental investigations – such as the ones currently being carried out by Defence.

Its practices are adopted and recognised by regulators, site assessors, environmental consultants and site owners, such as Defence.


PFAS Management Area Plan (PMAP)

The PFAS Management Area Plan details the PFAS remediation and management activities being undertaken at a particular site.

It’s important to note that this refers to the ‘Management Area’, which may be similsaar or evolved from the investigation area – depending on the findings of the Detailed Environmental Investigation.

Note: the PFAS Management Area Plan was previously referred to as the SMP (Site Management Plan).


Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI)

The Preliminary Site Investigation is the first stage of a detailed environmental investigation. This stage involves the historical review of where and when legacy fire-fighting foams were used (sources), how PFAS moves in the environment (migration pathways) and people, animals and the environment that may be exposed to PFAS (receptors).

The findings of the PSI are used to identify sampling locations and prioritise works for the second stage of the investigation.


Preliminary Sampling Program (PSP)

The purpose of the Preliminary Sampling Program was to understand if PFAS was present on, or in the vicinity of, a number of bases around Australia. Subject to what was found, a Detailed Site Investigation was commissioned.


Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

RAAF is a common prefix attached to Air Force bases in Australia.


Water Use Survey

The project team uses a Water Use Survey to better understand domestic and commercial water use. This helps to inform the sampling program.

Government AgenciesGovern-
ment Agencies

Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth)

The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) is responsible for providing agreed environmental health policy advice; implementation of the National Environmental Health Strategy; consultation with key stakeholders; and the development and coordination of research; as well as information and practical resources on environmental health matters at a national level.


Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA VIC)

The EPA Victoria is the primary environmental regulator for Victoria.


Environmental Protection Authority Western Australia (EPA WA)

The EPA WA is the primary environmental regulator for Western Australia.


Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is a statutory authority within the Australian government’s health portfolio. They deal mainly with the safety and appropriate regulation of food products in Australia.


New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA)

The NSW EPA is the primary environmental regulator for New South Wales.


Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NTEPA)

NTEPA is the primary environmental regulator for the Northern Territory.


South Australia Environment Protection Authority (SA EPA)

The SA EPA is the primary environmental regulator for South Australia.


Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES)

The Department of Environment and Heritage ProtectionScience is the primary environmental regulator for Queensland.

The EnvironmentThe Environ-
ment

Aquifer

An aquifer is an underground layer of porous and permeable rock, gravel, sand or silt, which can contain or transmit groundwater. Groundwater can be extracted from aquifers using a bore or well.


Biota

Biota is a scientific term used to refer to plant and animal life, which inhabit a particular region.


Bore Water

Water that is accessed through a deep hole, small in diameter, which reaches down to an aquifer.


Contamination

Contamination is caused by substances such as solids or liquids mixing with naturally occurring media, including surface water, groundwater and soil, making them impure.


Fauna

Animals that inhabit a particular habitat or environment.


Flora

Plants which grow in a particular habitat or environment.


Food Web

A food web is the plotting and representation of the various food chains in a particular habitat, and how they interact with one another.


Geology

Geology is the study of the substances (dirt, rock, sediment) that make up the surface of the earth. In the context of the PFAS investigations, the geological makeup of an area, can effect and predict the potential for PFAS migration.


Groundwater

Groundwater is water beneath the earth’s surface. It often supplies bores, wells or springs. It is sometimes referred to as borewater. Groundwater is transported through aquifers by gravity and pressure. Groundwater flows from high points to low points in a similar way to surface water.


Hydrology

Hydrology is a branch of science focused on the behavior and movement of water. In the context of the PFAS investigations, hydrology refers to water and how it moves above and below the surface of the earth.


Pathway

In the context of an environmental investigation, a ‘pathway’ is the means by which a substance migrates through a particular environment.


Receptor

In the context of an environmental investigation, a ‘receptor’ is the entity (organism, population, community, or set of ecological processes) that may be affected by contact with, or exposure to, a particular substance.


Sediment

Sediment is made of the broken down remains of rocks, minerals, plants and animals that is moved and deposited to a new location.


Soil

Soil covers the upper layer of the earth in which plants grow. It is made up of solids, liquids and gases.


Surface water

Surface water is water that collects on the ground and can be in the form of creeks, rivers, lakes, wetlands, oceans and more.


Topography

Topography is the study of the formations and features that make up the surface of the earth. I.e. hills, mountains, rivers and valleys. In the context of the PFAS investigations the topography of an area plays a role in assessing the risk of PFAS migration.

Glossary A-Z

Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)

Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) has been used in Australia and worldwide for many years, to assist with fire training drills, emergency/disaster event training, by government and private sector organsations.

AFFF is the most effective fire-fighting medium for liquid fuel fires to ensure human safety in emergency situations. AFFF acts quickly to smother fuel, preventing contact with oxygen by adding a thin film of foam over the fire.


Aquifer

An aquifer is an underground layer of porous and permeable rock, gravel, sand or silt, which can contain or transmit groundwater. Groundwater can be extracted from aquifers using a bore or well.


Biota

Biota is a scientific term used to refer to plant and animal life, which inhabit a particular region.


Bore Water

Water that is accessed through a deep hole, small in diameter, which reaches down to an aquifer.


Contamination

Contamination is caused by substances such as solids or liquids mixing with naturally occurring media, including surface water, groundwater and soil, making them impure.


Conceptual Site Model (CSM)

The Conceptual Site Model ( CSM) is a visual “cross-section” of a particular Defence site and its surrounds; used to indicate where and when legacy fire-fighting foam was used (sources), how PFAS might move in the environment (migration pathways) and the people, animals and the environment that may be exposed to PFAS (receptors). The CSM is continually revised as the environmental investigation progresses.


Detailed Environmental Investigation (DEI)

A Detailed Environmental Investigation is the overarching term used to describe the activities being conducted by the Department of Defence, in relation to exploring the nature and extent of PFAS contamination.

These investigations are conducted in accordance with the Australian National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (NEPM).

There are three main steps to the investigation process: a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI); a Detailed Site Investigation (DSI); and a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment. The Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment are only conducted if the results of the DSI deem it is necessary.

There are Detailed Environmental Investigations underway at a number of locations across the Defence estate.


Detailed Site Investigation (DSI)

A Detailed Site Investigation is the second stage of a detailed environmental investigation. This stage includes sampling, analysis and interpretation of soil, water, plants, animals and other environmental media which may be affected by PFAS contamination. A DSI identifies the areas where legacy firefighting foam was previously used (source areas) and how far it has spread in the environment. Depending on the outcomes of a DSI, a human health and/or ecological risk assessment may be required.


Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth)

The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) is responsible for providing agreed environmental health policy advice; implementation of the National Environmental Health Strategy; consultation with key stakeholders; and the development and coordination of research; as well as information and practical resources on environmental health matters at a national level.


Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA VIC)

The EPA Victoria is the primary environmental regulator for Victoria.


Environmental Protection Authority Western Australia (EPA WA)

The EPA WA is the primary environmental regulator for Western Australia.


Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA)

Occasionally Ecological Risk Assessments are conducted independent of a Human Health Risk Assessment. This is dependent on the findings of the Detailed Site Investigation.

The Ecological Risk Assessment evaluates any risks that PFAS contamination may pose to animals and the environment; to inform management activities.


Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

An Environmental Site Assessment (a discontinued term) is equivalent to the current DSI. ESA’s were undertaken at Williamtown and Oakey and included sampling, analysis and interpretation of soil, water, plants, animals and other environmental media which may be affected by PFAS contamination. The outcomes of the ESA were used to inform the Human Health Risk Assessment and Ecological Risk Assessment for both Williamtown and Oakey.


Fauna

Animals that inhabit a particular habitat or environment.


Flora

Plants which grow in a particular habitat or environment.


Food Web

A food web is the plotting and representation of the various food chains in a particular habitat, and how they interact with one another.


Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ)

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is a statutory authority within the Australian government’s health portfolio. They deal mainly with the safety and appropriate regulation of food products in Australia.


Geology

Geology is the study of the substances (dirt, rock, sediment) that make up the surface of the earth. In the context of the PFAS investigations, the geological makeup of an area, can effect and predict the potential for PFAS migration.


Groundwater

Groundwater is water beneath the earth’s surface. It often supplies bores, wells or springs. It is sometimes referred to as borewater. Groundwater is transported through aquifers by gravity and pressure. Groundwater flows from high points to low points in a similar way to surface water.


Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (HHERA)

Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments are conducted to evaluate potential risk to people animals and the environment, and inform any management plans.

If the DSI identifies that contamination is present and sensitive ecological receptors such as marine life, plants or animals may be affected or that humans may have the potential to be exposed to the contamination, an assessment will be undertaken into the risk of PFAS contamination to human health and the environment.


Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA)

Occasionally Human Health Risk Assessments are conducted independent of an ecological assessment. This is dependent on the findings on the Detailed Site Investigation.

The Human Health Risk Assessment evaluates any risks that PFAS contamination may pose to people in the vicinity of the investigation area; to inform management activities.


HMAS

HMAS is a common prefix attached to ships in the Royal Australian Navy. It stands for Her (or His) Majesty’s Australian Ship.


Hydrology

Hydrology is a branch of science focused on the behavior and movement of water. In the context of the PFAS investigations, hydrology refers to water and how it moves above and below the surface of the earth.


Investigation/Study Area

An Investigation/Study Area defines the current extent of the environmental investigation. This area can expand or contract depending on the findings of the investigation.

Most (but not all) soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water sampling will take place inside the Investigation Area.


Jervis Bay Territory (JBT)

Jervis Bay Territory is the proper name of the territory situated around the Jervis Bay Range Facility.


Limit of Reporting (LOR)

The limit of reporting (LOR) is the lowest concentration level that the laboratory is able to measure in a sample with a reasonable degree of certainly. Where the laboratory results show a result below limit of reporting, it means that if PFAS is present in the sample it is too low for the laboratory to measure with any degree of certainty.


Management Area

The Management Area is the geographical outline of the zone where PFAS remediation and management activities are likely to occur.

This area may be similar to, or evolved from, the Investigation/Study Area, depending on the findings of the Detailed Environmental Investigation.


National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM)

This is the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure. It is process and guidance document, which has established a nationally consistent approach to environmental investigations – such as the ones currently being carried out by Defence.

Its practices are adopted and recognised by regulators, site assessors, environmental consultants and site owners, such as Defence.


New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA)

The NSW EPA is the primary environmental regulator for New South Wales.


Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NTEPA)

NTEPA is the primary environmental regulator for the Northern Territory.


Pathway

In the context of an environmental investigation, a ‘pathway’ is the means by which a substance migrates through a particular environment.


Per-and Poly-Fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals used in products that resist heat, oil, stains and water.

The release of PFAS into the environment has become a concern, because we’ve learned these chemicals can persist in humans, animals and the environment.

There is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects. As these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution.


Perfluorohexane Sulphonate (PFHxS)

Perfluorohexane sulphonate (PFHxS) was also commonly found in the legacy firefighting foams, as an impurity in the manufacturing process.


Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was also an active ingredient used to the production of the legacy firefighting foams. In the past, foams containing this substance have been used at a number of Defence sites, for training and real-world fire exercises.


Perfluorooctane Sulphonate (PFOS)

Perfluorooctane ulphonate (PFOS) was used as an active ingredient in the production of legacy firefighting foams. In the past, foams containing this substance have been used at a number of Defence sites, for training and real-world fire exercises.


PFAS Management Area Plan (PMAP)

The PFAS Management Area Plan details the PFAS remediation and management activities being undertaken at a particular site.

It’s important to note that this refers to the ‘Management Area’, which may be similsaar or evolved from the investigation area – depending on the findings of the Detailed Environmental Investigation.

Note: the PFAS Management Area Plan was previously referred to as the SMP (Site Management Plan).


Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI)

The Preliminary Site Investigation is the first stage of a detailed environmental investigation. This stage involves the historical review of where and when legacy fire-fighting foams were used (sources), how PFAS moves in the environment (migration pathways) and people, animals and the environment that may be exposed to PFAS (receptors).

The findings of the PSI are used to identify sampling locations and prioritise works for the second stage of the investigation.


Preliminary Sampling Program (PSP)

The purpose of the Preliminary Sampling Program was to understand if PFAS was present on, or in the vicinity of, a number of bases around Australia. Subject to what was found, a Detailed Site Investigation was commissioned.


Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES)

The Department of Environment and Heritage ProtectionScience is the primary environmental regulator for Queensland.


Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)

RAAF is a common prefix attached to Air Force bases in Australia.


Receptor

In the context of an environmental investigation, a ‘receptor’ is the entity (organism, population, community, or set of ecological processes) that may be affected by contact with, or exposure to, a particular substance.


South Australia Environment Protection Authority (SA EPA)

The SA EPA is the primary environmental regulator for South Australia.


Sediment

Sediment is made of the broken down remains of rocks, minerals, plants and animals that is moved and deposited to a new location.


Soil

Soil covers the upper layer of the earth in which plants grow. It is made up of solids, liquids and gases.


Surface water

Surface water is water that collects on the ground and can be in the form of creeks, rivers, lakes, wetlands, oceans and more.


Surfactants

Surfactants (or surface acting agents) help fire-fighting foam “stick” to the liquid fuel to smother a fire and put it out.


Topography

Topography is the study of the formations and features that make up the surface of the earth. I.e. hills, mountains, rivers and valleys. In the context of the PFAS investigations the topography of an area plays a role in assessing the risk of PFAS migration.


Water Use Survey

The project team uses a Water Use Survey to better understand domestic and commercial water use. This helps to inform the sampling program.