Further update on EPA’s fire-fighting foams investigation
WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2018
This is a general update on the investigation into fire-fighting foams manufactured using PFOS or PFOA, which the Environmental Protection Authority announced last December. A range of updates on the investigation, and issues associated with it, can be found on the EPA’s website.
“Our December announcement noted we would investigate storage and use of such foams at airports and other locations,” notes the EPA’s General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter. “Our investigation has found PFOS-containing foams at various sites.”
“The volumes and circumstances in which such foam has been found range from small amounts held in storage, to a few instances of larger volumes kept for emergency use. In these cases, safe disposal includes the need to decontaminate equipment and facilities, which can be an involved process,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.
Airports are working to address issues about the safe storage and disposal of these foams. As previously announced, the EPA has issued compliance orders on parties relating to four airports – Nelson, Gisborne, Palmerston North and Hawkes Bay. These orders restricted all use of non-compliant foam, other than for emergencies. Even that use was to cease, either by a specific date or as soon as practicable.
“In other instances, the EPA is engaging with those responsible for non-compliant foam, to ensure its safe storage and disposal,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.
“We are tailoring our response to the particular circumstances, and in some cases we are relying on undertakings that appropriate action will be taken by those responsible. We will subsequently seek verification that the agreed action has been taken.”
Ending the use of PFOS and PFOA in New Zealand is in the interests of human safety and environmental protection, and the EPA will continue to work to this end.