Latest updates

Important information for communities around RAAF Base Townsville.

December 2020 - May 2023 Ongoing Monitoring Interpretive Report - October 2023 (PDF, 85.9 MB)

RAAF Base Townsville Community Consultative Session Presentation (PDF, 10.79 MB)

RAAF Base Townsville Factsheet - October 2023 (PDF, 1.79 MB)

RAAF Base Townsville Community Consultative Session Posters - October 2023 (PDF, 2.13 MB)

Investigations and findings

In December 2019, Defence completed investigations into per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination on and around RAAF Base Townsville.

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 source areas were found on the base where PFAS concentrations required further study or action. These were:

  • Sub-Management Area 1 - The Former Fire Training Ground
  • Sub-Management Area 2 - Fuel Farm 2 and Fire Station
  • Sub-Management Area 3 - Large areas including aviation hangars.

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 undertaking recreational activities within the management area. This assessment found that eating the liver of locally caught fish, prawns and crabs is a low PFAS exposure risk. Based on these findings, the Queensland Government issued precautionary dietary advice. This advice is for people that regularly catch or eat fish from any lakes in Idalia, or the ponded sections of Gordon Creek within Idalia.

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

Additional investigations

Defence conducted a Mass Flux Assessment that tracks how and where PFAS is moving and how much PFAS is leaving the base. The study found that PFAS mainly leaves the base in surface water over the north western boundary via the Louisa Creek catchment and the Town Commons. These findings are being used to help determine the best remediation actions to further reduce the amount of PFAS leaving RAAF Base Townsville.

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.

As the movement of PFAS from RAAF Base Townsville is mostly through surface water which picks up PFAS from contaminated soil, current remediation is focussed on PFAS in the top layer of soils and on preventing groundwater entering surface water drains.

Soil remediation

The following provides an update for each of the major PFAS sources areas identified in the investigations.

Sub-Management Area 1 – the former fire training ground

Sub-Management Area 1 is located next to the commercial airport at the eastern end of the base and is a source area where PFAS is leaving RAAF Base Townsville. The soil in this area contains more than 115 kg of PFAS. A remediation action plan has been prepared for Sub-Management Area 1, to reduce the amount of PFAS entering surface drains located on the site and flowing off the base.

The remediation uses a process called soil stabilisation. The process removes PFAS-impacted soil and treats it with a natural product. This makes the PFAS stick to the product within the soil and stops it from moving when it rains. The treated soil is then placed back and covered with a clean layer of topsoil to prevent erosion. Some of this treated soil will also be relocated to local landfills. However, if the soil has PFAS concentrations that are too high to treat effectively, that soil will be sent interstate for disposal at a thermal destruction facility.

The surface water drain that runs through Sub-Management Area 1 will also be upgraded to prevent PFAS in groundwater entering the drain and moving off base.

Defence expects that these works will be completed in late 2023.

Sub-Management Area 2 – fuel farm 2 and fire station (Level 4)

Sub-Management Area 2 is in the central part of the base to the west of the main runway. Recent investigations have confirmed it is the major source for PFAS leaving the base. The soil in this area contains more than 280 kg of PFAS. A remediation action plan is currently being prepared for the fuel farm 2 and the fire station, to reduce PFAS moving to surface drains on the site and into the management area. Defence expects to start the remediation works in 2024.

Sub-Management Area 3 – large areas including aviation hangars

Sub-Management Area 3 is located on the southern part of the base. Investigations are currently underway to assess how much PFAS is leaving RAAF Base Townsville from this source area. Defence expects to complete this study in the second half of 2023, and will use the results to find the best remediation options.

Groundwater remediation

All investigations suggest that surface water run-off is the key source of PFAS leaving RAAF Base Townsville. While groundwater does reach surface water drains, it is usually only during periods of high rainfall.

As the most benefit will come from reducing PFAS in surface water, there are no current plans for groundwater remediation at the base.

Ongoing monitoring

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

Monitoring results have found no significant changes to how PFAS is moving in the management area. The remedial works are expected to reduce the PFAS moving off the base, and over time this will help reduce the amount of PFAS in the management area.

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

Recent reports and factsheets

Detailed reports from the PFAS investigation and management program 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 Townsville document archive contains information about the management of PFAS. This includes:

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

Some archive information has been superseded by the recent reports and factsheets.

Documents Archive - Townsville (PDF, 342.81 KB)

Last review: 12 December 2023