Toxic chemical find closes Gold Coast waterway

Kirra beach has been closed after toxic chemical chemicals were found leeching into the water.
Kirra beach has been closed after toxic chemical chemicals were found leeching into the water. John Gass /TWE060112beach

A GOLD Coast waterway has been closed to swimmers and anglers after traces of toxic chemicals were discovered - and there are fears they may have spread further afield.

The Gold Coast City Council yesterday revealed higher than usual levels of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFAS) had been found at the Coolangatta Creek outlet at Kirra Beach.

Warning signs will be erected today reminding people not to swim or fish in the creek.

A spokeswoman for Gold Coast City Council yesterday stressed the potential for human health risks at Kirra was "very low".

PFAS have been found in scores of communities around the developed world, often near airports or military installations. The Gold Coast Airport last year reported higher than normal levels of PFAS caused by a firefighting foam.

More than 450 people from the country community of Oakey are suing the Australian Department of Defence after groundwater contamination, also from toxic firefighting foam, allegedly caused severe health problems.

Testing has taken place across the Gold Coast and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokesman said a groundwater investigation was underway.

"The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has been sampling groundwater in the vicinity of Golden Four Drive to the east of the Gold Coast Airport following a report by a member of the public indicating that PFAS may be present in groundwater at that location," the spokesman said.

Testing is expected to take several weeks and residents have been reminded to only use bore water if they are confident it is completely safe.

Southern councillor Gail O'Neill said the signs would not explain why swimming and fishing was banned.

"I think it has been very well publicised that they have done testing there," she said.

There is not a risk associated with swimming and fishing in the ocean. National Toxins Network expert Mariann Lloyd-Smith said finding contamination outside the airport grounds was "inevitable".

"The levels at the Gold Coast Airport were some of the highest I have ever seen," she said. Dr Lloyd-Smith, who spoke to the Bulletin from a conference in Rome about PFAS contamination, said the find was a "real concern".

"We are not talking about drinking water but it will have an impact on wildlife," she said.

"Once it is in the environment it doesn't go away."

The extent of the damage done by the by PFAS chemicals is yet to be truly known with research still underway.

AirServices Austarlia played down the contamination saying the results had been characterised by the council as "very low and not of concern".

"The Council's actions are a matter for the Council, but its recommendation for no direct water contact for recreation activities do not appear consistent with its characterisation of the results as very low and not of concern, nor does the recommendation reflect the health-based guidance values," a spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said all of their testing in Coolangatta Creek was below the federal Department of Health recreational water value.

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