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Richmond RAAF Base toxic contamination - Defence must not repeat Williamtown mistakes

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 15 Jun 2018

Following the release of the Defence Department report into toxic contamination coming off the Richmond RAAF Base, The Greens have called on the Federal Government to commit to an immediate clean up to protect the Hawkesbury River and the reputation of the Hawkesbury’s agriculture and river-based lifestyle.

The report found a 10 square kilometre plume of chemical contamination in groundwater surrounding the RAAF Base, contaminating Rickaby's Creek and Baker's Lagoon, with probable discharges into the Hawkesbury River.

The chemicals in the contaminated water have been found to cause endocrine disruption, low birth weight and tumours in animal studies.  There is insufficient evidence to rule out adverse health impacts in humans. 

“The health of locals and base workers, and the healthy food production and river-based recreation of the Hawkesbury must come before any attempt by the Defence Department to protect their reputation,” Greens NSW MP Senator Lee Rhiannon said.

“The mistakes Defence made in how they handled the Williamtown contamination crisis must not be repeated.

“The Government should immediately offer free blood tests, medical advice and counselling if required to impacted locals and base workers.  

“Defence is responsible for the contamination and that means they can’t pass the buck and try and avoid the assistance that must be given to those affected."

Hawkesbury Greens Councillor Danielle Wheeler, a medical researcher and former Defence member, said, “This toxic contamination is a serious set-back for our region.  Council was briefed in February by Defence and told we had nothing to worry about. Clearly that is not the case.

"Defence knew these chemicals were problematic in 2004.  They could have withdrawn them from use, but instead they allowed stockpiles to be used up, increasing the contamination of our land and waterways.  These are long-lasting chemicals that persist in the environment and in humans.  We are just really lucky that the contamination occurred in an area where no one is likely to drink the water.  Fishers should be particularly concerned.

"Defence must now extend its epidemiological studies to the Hawkesbury for local residents, river users and particularly those Defence members who have been posted here.  A long term cohort study to monitor and assess adverse effects is essential.

“Defence must act quickly to clean up this contamination. Anything less will reflect poorly on them.  We must stop treating our creeks and rivers as drains.  There is no excuse for this."

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