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Important information for communities around RAAF Base Wagga.

PFAS detections at Wagga Wagga

As part of the PFAS Ongoing Monitoring Program, Defence has detected low levels of PFAS at two groundwater monitoring wells approximately 650 metres from the East Wagga borefield operated by the Riverina Water County Council. These monitoring wells do not form part of Riverina Water’s drinking water catchment and the PFAS levels were below the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG).

Extensive testing has confirmed there is no PFAS in the East Wagga borefield. The East Wagga borefield is one of four main water sources within Riverina Water’s catchment. 

While these results suggest the PFAS plume from RAAF Base Wagga is moving faster than originally predicted, Defence can confirm there is no short-term risk of PFAS contamination to the borefield and the water is safe to drink

As a result of Defence’s monitoring at East Wagga, Riverina Water undertook further precautionary testing of all its water sources. No detectable PFAS levels were recorded at sources nearest to East Wagga and in any other water sources, with the exception of one very low-level reading in a bore at Riverina Water’s West Wagga site.

Riverina Water confirm the West Wagga bore has not been in recent production and remains isolated from the network while the result is being investigated. The low-level PFAS result at one West Wagga site was well within the health limits set by the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Defence is working closely with Riverina Water County Council, the NSW Government, and Wagga Wagga City Council to help safeguard the Wagga Wagga water supply over the long-term by implementing management strategies including regular monitoring and testing.

The detections of PFAS highlights the importance of regular sampling by Defence as part of the ongoing monitoring program.

For more information on Defence’s response to PFAS contamination on and around RAAF Base Wagga and Blamey Barracks (Kapooka Military Area), please contact Defence using the details located in the Contacts section on this page.

Investigations and findings

In November 2018, Defence completed investigations into per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination on and around RAAF Base Wagga.

Defence recognises that the PFAS contamination from RAAF Base Wagga is a significant issue for the local community. Defence is committed to working with the New South Wales (NSW) 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.

Three key source areas were identified where PFAS was found in soil, surface water and groundwater at concentrations that required further study or action:

  • the former fire training area
  • current fire station
  • fire extinguisher concrete pad and former fire station area.

The investigations also found that PFAS had accumulated in areas where firefighting foams had not previously been used or stored. These are called secondary source areas. Findings from the investigations identified that PFAS contaminated stormwater and surface water leaving RAAF Base Wagga created a secondary PFAS source area at the Gumly Gumly Wetland, to the west of the base. Defence investigations found there is potential for PFAS impacted groundwater at this area to move downstream towards drinking water supply bores. Groundwater modelling undertaken by Defence has indicated that PFAS will not reach the water supply bores for at least 50 years.

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 findings of the investigations, the NSW Environment Protection Authority issued precautionary advice to residents in the area to minimise their exposure to PFAS.

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 tracks how and where PFAS is moving from the source areas and how much PFAS is leaving the base. The investigations found that PFAS mainly moves off base through sewerage pipes to the Forest Hill Sewerage Treatment Plant and stormwater pipes to the Gumly Gumly Wetlands, and then onto Marshalls Creek. These findings are being used to help determine the best remediation actions to further reduce the amount of PFAS leaving RAAF Base Wagga.

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 Wagga setting out the proposed remedial works and other management actions to manage potential risks presented by PFAS.

At RAAF Base Wagga, Defence is focused on the management of PFAS at the key source areas on base. Remedial works are focused on addressing PFAS in soil and infrastructure such as concrete, and to reduce the amount of PFAS travelling off base through sewer and stormwater drainage pipes.

Soil remediation

In 2021, Defence collaborated with Wagga Wagga City Council to remove approximately 1,500 tonnes (about 50 truckloads) of PFAS impacted soils at Wagga Wagga Airport as part of the taxiway extension works. The soil was transported to a licensed facility for treatment and disposal.

Soil around the former fire extinguisher pad will also be removed and treated to stop PFAS moving from the soil when water flows over of through it. The works are expected to commence by the end of 2023. After completion of these remedial works, a monitoring program of surface water and sewage testing in the area will be undertaken to review the effectiveness of the soil remediation.

Infrastructure remediation

At the current fire station, remediation works are planned to seal concrete areas to create a barrier between the PFAS impacted concrete and surface water. The barrier will reduce the amount of PFAS moving through surface water and into the stormwater drainage network.

At the fire extinguisher pad, PFAS impacted concrete and asphalt as well as nearby stormwater lines and underground storage pits will be removed. Parts of the sewer network will also be removed and replaced with new parts to reduce PFAS moving through soil into sewer pipes.

Gumly Gumly Wetland

Modelling undertaken by Defence identified that in 50 years PFAS contaminated groundwater at Gumly Gumly Wetland could potentially move downstream to drinking water supply bores. The PFAS Management Area Plan actions focus on reducing PFAS moving to stormwater and sewers at RAAF Base Wagga. These actions, along with ongoing monitoring will support the modelling and track movement of PFAS in groundwater. If PFAS moves closer to the water supply bores, Defence will manage the risk with best practice management approaches available at the time. This approach will allow Defence to take advantage of rapidly evolving technologies in the PFAS remediation space.

Other management actions

Investigations have found that PFAS contaminated sewage leaving the base is being discharged to the Forest Hill Sewage Treatment Plant. Defence will continue to work with Wagga Wagga City Council to resolve issues with PFAS at the plant.

Ongoing monitoring

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

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

New groundwater monitoring wells installed at the lower part of the Gumly Gumly Wetland found higher levels of PFAS in groundwater than initially estimated. However, monitoring results to date have found no significant changes to how PFAS is moving in the management area. 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 Wagga 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 - Wagga (PDF, 230.16 KB)

Last review: 28 June 2023