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Important information for communities around Jervis Bay.

Investigations and findings

In December 2019, Defence completed investigations into per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination on and around the Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell.

Defence recognises that the PFAS contamination from the Jervis Bay Facility and HMAS Creswell is a significant issue for the Jervis Bay and Wreck Bay communities. Defence is committed to working with local authorities to monitor, manage and remediate PFAS contamination in the area.

The investigations found that PFAS is mostly concentrated in areas where firefighting foams were previously used, stored or disposed. These are called source areas. The PFAS in these locations can be found in soil and in water flowing through the source areas. PFAS moves in surface water flowing through drains and creeks, or groundwater that flows underground through soil and rock.

Three primary source areas, also referred to as Areas of Environmental Concern, were found on the base where PFAS concentrations required further study or action. These were:

  • Area of Environmental Concern A – Royal Australian Navy School of Survivability and Ship Safety (RAN SSSS)
  • Area of Environmental Concern C – Jervis Bay Range Facility former fire training area, which is now the parachute training school
  • Area of Environmental Concern F – HMAS Creswell Fire Station

The investigations also found that PFAS had built up in areas where firefighting foams had not previously been used or stored. These are called secondary source areas. PFAS has travelled from one of the primary source areas and over time has collected in the soil and water within the secondary source area.

Three secondary source areas were found where PFAS concentrations required further study or action. These were:

  • Area of Environmental Concern B – the wetland at the head waters of Mary Creek, located south west of the RAN SSSS
  • Area of Environmental Concern E – the former golf course on HMAS Creswell
  • Area of Environmental Concern G – the HMAS Creswell Sewage Treatment Plant

Drinking water at Jervis Bay is tested regularly by the Jervis Bay Territory Administration. The results show PFAS has been found in Lake Windermere at very low levels that are assessed as safe under the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. The Jervis Bay drinking water results are released each month in the Jervis Bay community bulletins, published by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.

The Jervis Bay Range Facility is situated on a flat topped hill and is surrounded by several creeks. Investigations found that water draining north flows into either the Flat Rock Creek catchment, or Captains Lagoon catchment. Water draining south mostly flows into the Mary Creek catchment, with some also flowing into the Summercloud Creek catchment. A small portion of water flows west into the Lake McKenzie catchment.

HMAS Creswell is located on a cliff that extends out into the sea between Hyams Beach and Captains Beach, and most of the water drains into either Flat Rock Creek or Captains Lagoon. A small portion of water from HMAS Creswell drains north directly into Jervis Bay.

Human Health Risk Assessment

As part of the investigations, Defence conducted a Human Health Risk Assessment. This assessment measured the PFAS exposure risks to people living, working and visiting Jervis Bay. The assessment found the PFAS contamination from Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell has an elevated exposure risk to human health at some locations.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts has released precautionary advice for users of waterways in the Jervis Bay Territory. The precautionary advice is that Mary Creek is closed for all use and that the collection and eating of seafood from Summercloud Creek, Flatrock Creek and Captains Lagoon should be avoided.

More detail on Defence’s risk assessments, can be found in the Human Health Risk Assessment factsheet (PDF 694KB).

Additional investigations

Defence conducted a Mass Flux Assessment that tracks how and where PFAS is moving from source areas and how much PFAS is leaving the base. This will help to determine the best remediation actions to reduce the amount of PFAS leaving Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell.

Investigations relating to the Mary Creek catchment have found that PFAS mainly moves off the base through surface water during wet weather events. Contaminated surface water and groundwater have also been found to be mixed in the swamps and wetlands located across the area. This includes at the start of one of the rivers that flows to Mary Creek.

Other investigations relating to the Flat Rock Creek and Captains Lagoon catchment in the north are progressing.

Remediation and management

The aim of remediation is to minimise PFAS leaving the base, by focusing on the remediation and management of the source areas. Over time this will contribute to the reduction of PFAS in the management area. Defence has a PFAS Management Area Plan setting out the proposed remedial works and other management actions to manage potential risks presented by PFAS.

A Remediation Action Plan has been prepared for Mary Creek catchment. Another Remediation Action Plan for the northern catchments is currently being prepared.

Mary Creek catchment remediation

The remediation strategy for the Mary Creek catchment is focused on reducing the amount of PFAS entering Mary Creek. The following remediation actions are planned for the area.

  • Redirecting clean water around the PFAS contaminated source areas before it becomes contaminated.
  • Capturing and treating PFAS contaminated water at the boundary of the base before it flows into Mary Creek. Treated water will then be released back to maintain the natural water levels and minimise impact on the surrounding environment.
  • Removing PFAS contaminated soil from targeted areas of the base.
  • Capturing and treating PFAS contaminated groundwater beneath the RAN SSSS.
  • Directing the captured surface and ground water to a new water treatment plant at the RAN SSSS. The water treatment plant is designed to treat water run off for 98% of the year and can process up to 720 litres of water per minute. Treated water released from the plant will have PFAS levels at or below the safe drinking water guidelines, and will usually be below the levels of PFAS that can be detected in water.

Defence will continue to monitor the area to check if the remediation actions are effective, or if more needs to be done.

Temporary water treatment plant

In November 2022, Defence built a temporary water treatment plant near the southern boundary of the Jervis Bay Range Facility. This plant removes PFAS from surface water and reduces the amount of PFAS moving into the upper parts of Mary Creek. The volume of water that can be processed, depends on the amount of rainfall. When it is raining, up to 180 litres per minute can be treated. When it is not raining, the amount of water treated depends on how much water is flowing through the nearby drain. Testing of the water released from the plant either has not detected any remaining PFAS or is detected at levels that are safe in accordance with the safe drinking water guidelines.

This water treatment plant is temporary. When the planned Mary Creek remediation works are completed, and the full scale water treatment plant is operating, the temporary plant will no longer be required. The full scale water treatment plant is scheduled for completion in 2024.

The water treatment plants are not treating water which is part of the drinking supply for the Jervis Bay Territory.

Photon water trial

To support the development of new treatment technologies, Defence is working with Photon Energy Group in a trial to remove PFAS from contaminated groundwater without the need to pump water out of the ground.

This technology aims to destroy PFAS in groundwater by using iron particles and electrical currents. Iron is found in soil and water naturally and does not pose a risk to the environment.

Results from this trial are expected in 2023. If successful, this technology may form part of Defence’s ongoing remediation options.

Ongoing monitoring

Monitoring of PFAS continues through sampling of surface water and groundwater. Monitoring helps Defence understand if PFAS contamination is changing over time.

Recent reports and factsheets

Detailed reports from the PFAS investigation and management at Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell are available for download. Appendices to these reports can be found in the document archive. To discuss these reports, contact pfas.enquiry@defence.gov.au.

Water Treatment Plant reports

Reports from the management of Water Treatment Plants.

Water Treatment Plant Sampling Results Jervis Bay Range Facility (PDF, 441.98 KB)

Document archive

The Jervis Bay Range Facility and HMAS Creswell document archive contains information that Defence has published about the management of PFAS, including older community presentations, investigation reports, risk assessments and factsheets.

Some archived information has been superseded by recent reports and factsheets.

Documents Archive - Jervis Bay (PDF, 289.87 KB)

Last review: 28 June 2023