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Important information for communities around RAAF Base East Sale.

Investigations and findings

In August 2018, Defence completed investigations into per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination on and around the RAAF Base East Sale. Defence is committed to working with the Victorian Government to manage, remediate and monitor 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.

Four areas were found at RAAF Base East Sale where PFAS concentrations required further study or action. These were:

  • Maintenance Areas in the north-west
  • The former and current fire stations
  • The waste burial areas and former fire training areas to the south-east
  • A grassed area near the runway

Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment

As part of the investigations, Defence conducted a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment. This assessment measured the PFAS exposure risks to people living, working and undertaking recreational activities within the management area and to local plant and animal life.

Based on the investigations findings, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria issued consumption advice for duck, fish or eel caught from specific locations in the East Gippsland area.

More detail on Defence’s risk assessments can be found in the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment factsheet.

Additional investigations

Defence conducted a Mass Flux Assessment that track 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 RAAF Base East Sale.

The assessment found that PFAS mainly moves off the base through surface water during larger wet weather events. Contaminated surface water and groundwater have also been found to be mixed in the large drains that flow cross the base and into the Heart Morass.

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 for RAAF Base East Sale setting out the proposed remedial works and other management actions to manage potential risks presented by PFAS.

In June 2023, approximately 2,000 tonnes of PFAS contaminated soil was transported to a licenced treatment facility in Hallam, Victoria for thermal destruction. The soils were initially removed from a source area on the base when construction occurred in 2016. Prior to the soils being transported and destroyed, they had been stored in a secured location on base.

Defence is currently preparing a Remediation Action Plan for RAAF Base East Sale. This plan will help identify additional best management actions to limit PFAS from leaving the base and to reduce PFAS exposure to people and the local environment.

Ongoing monitoring

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

The results are published in an Ongoing Monitoring Interpretive Report and factsheet. Defence will inform the community if changes to the management approach are required.

Monitoring results to date have found no significant changes to how PFAS is moving in the management area. However, the remedial works are expected to reduce PFAS from leaving the base, and over time this will contribute to the reduction of PFAS in the management area.

Recent reports and factsheets

Detailed reports from the PFAS investigation and management 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.

Document archive

The RAAF Base East Sale document archive contains information that Defence has published about the management of PFAS. This includes;

  • older community presentations,
  • investigation reports,
  • risk assessments and
  • factsheets.

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

Documents Archive - East Sale (PDF, 281.64 KB)

Last review: 28 June 2023