State outlines plans for ponded Airport water
PONDED water on the Sunshine Coast Airport runway will be tested and, if required, treated to ensure its below the PFAS National Environmental Management plan levels before it’s released into the ocean.
As concerns grow over Sunshine Coast Council’s plans to remove groundwater from the PFAS-contaminated runway construction site, the State Government has moved to allay fears for environmental and human health.
The Department of Environment and Science has provided detailed responses to a series of questions about the plan but acknowledged there were risks which it described as either low or minimal.
Sunshine Coast Council went into closed session last Thursday to discuss ocean disposal after discarding a plan to treat all water on site before discharge into the Maroochy River.
On Monday, Deputy Mayor Tim Dwyer outlined the proposal to build a pipeline to transport ground and surface water from numerous ponded areas under the David Low Way bridge and 400m out to sea.
Mudjimba Beach Boardriders spokesman Ross Day said many questions remained unanswered, including the substance’s movement through the ocean, whether it would settle in the sand after being pushed around by current and tide, and what dangers existed.
“There’s been no information. This decision is about time and money,” Mr Day said.
“It seems the main priority is to get the airport project going.
“There have been no reports available. They’re just telling us what they think we want to hear.
“This needs to be stopped in its tracks. It’s not just Mudjimba, but Marcoola, Yaroomba, Coolum and further north with the way currents work.
“Save time, save money with the State Government to push things through is what it feels like.”
A DES spokesperson said the department and council would ensure water being released was “of an acceptable standard to ensure the protection of the environment”.
“The release complies with the human health-based guidance values for recreational waters of less than 0.7ug/L for PFAS, and also remains protective of bioaccumulation risks.
“DES notes that Council intends to release water that is 200 times lower than this level.”
The spokesperson said risks to aquatic species from bioaccumulation and bio magnification was “significantly lower in large oceanic marine environments in comparison to the smaller confined waters of the Maroochy River estuarine environment”.
The spokesperson said that rather than assuming harm would occur where levels were greater than those listed in the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan, they should be a trigger for further investigation relating to site-specific risk assessment.
The State Government will continue to undertake regular inspections at the site to ensure council and its contractors were meeting their general environmental duty.
“The region experienced above average rainfall from March to June this year, leading to significant volumes of water ponding across the site,” the spokesperson said. “This is Council’s solution for the duration of the construction project.
“Future requirements will be assessed when necessary on a case-by-case basis.”
Rainfall according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather station located at the airport for March, April and June was 238.2mm above the historical average. However total rainfall to date this year has been 22mm below average to the end of July.
The Department of Environment and Science said its understanding was the pipeline to pump the water to sea would be installed by early October and would be operating by mid-October.
The spokesperson said up to eight megalitres of water would be pumped through the pipe each day.
If that rate could be maintained, ponded water to be removed from the site within 20 days, weather permitting.
“The pipe would allow future average rainfall events to be discharged within 24 to 48 hours for the remainder of the construction period,” the DES spokesperson said.
“The risk to turtles is very low. This process will ensure water will be released rapidly, which will ensure no risk of harm to marine life in the Maroochy River, adjacent freshwater wetlands and the Mt Coolum National Park.
“The risks to aquatic species from bioaccumulation and bio magnification is significantly lower in large oceanic marine environments as such, the risk to turtles is considered very low.
“The risk for humans and animals in minimal. Council is applying the human health-based guidance values for recreational waters of 0.7ug/L and the water Council intends to release is 200 times lower than this level.”