What is PFAS?

Per- and poly- fluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are manufactured chemicals that are used to make products resistant to heat, stains, grease and water.

PFAS have been widely used for more than 50 years in many consumer and industrial products, including carpets, cookware, clothing, food packaging, pesticides, stain repellents, firefighting foams, mist suppressants and coatings.

PFAS are stable chemicals that are resistant to physical, chemical and biological degradation. Because of these properties, PFAS last for a long time and they can be found in humans, animals and throughout the environment in Australia and other parts of the world.

There are many types of PFAS. The PFAS most commonly encountered in the environment and in wildlife are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorohexane sulfonate (PFHxS). These are also the most studied PFAS due to their frequent occurrence in the environment, persistence and potential for bioaccumulation.

PFAS molecules are made up of a carbon chain with attached fluorine atoms, and a hydrophilic (water soluble) group at one end. The hydrophilic headgroups make PFAS very soluble in water. Consequently, PFAS can move from soil to surface water or groundwater and then migrate to creeks, rivers and lakes. PFAS can also be taken up by organisms in contaminated areas and be transferred through the food chain.

Due to widespread historical PFAS use, there are now PFAS contaminated sites in many parts of Australia and around the world. In some cases, PFAS from these sites have migrated to surface water, groundwater and/or adjoining land. PFAS can also be released into the environment from landfill sites where PFAS-containing products are disposed of, and through sewer discharges.

‘Groundwater’ is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces within soil, sand and rock. It moves slowly through the subsurface and may flow into surface water bodies.

‘Surface water’ is water that collects on the surface of the ground. This includes water in creeks, rivers, dams, lakes. It also includes water that temporarily pools or flows along the ground or in a drain during or after rainfall events. In general, surface water flows towards lower lying areas.

History of PFAS Use at Adelaide Airport

Firefighting services at Adelaide Airport are provided by Airservices Australia – an Australian Government owned organisation providing safe, secure, efficient and environmentally responsible services to the aviation industry.

Firefighting foam used at the airport by aviation rescue firefighting services since the early 1970s contained perfluorinated compounds (PFC). The use of this foam was discontinued in 2010.

The firefighting foams historically used at airports around the world contained PFAS and included commercial products such as 3M LightWaterTM and AnsuliteTM.

Foams containing PFAS have been stored and/or used at the fire training ground, located adjacent the main runway.

PFAS at Adelaide Airport

For everything you need to know about PFAS at Adelaide Airport, please refer to this brochure.

PFAS at Adelaide Airport – Last modified November 2018

As part of Adelaide Airport’s ongoing commitment to engage with relevant stakeholders regarding assessment and management of PFAS, the additional groundwater testing results completed by Airservices Australia in November 2018 were expected to be available in January 2019. Whilst recent investigations on Adelaide Airport have showed PFAS levels were generally low, the recent targeted sampling area will be extended by approximately 200-300 metres with further testing and groundwater surveys to be completed at the end of January 2019 to ensure a complete data set is obtained. Subsequently, testing results from both the November 2018 and January 2019 testing will be consolidated and published in the first quarter 2019.

For further information about PFAS, please refer to the PFAS at Adelaide Airport brochure, refer to the Air Services Australia website or contact the PFAS hotline on 1800 531 899.

For further information

Contact the PFAS Hotline on 1800 531 899

Airservices Australia

EPA South Australia

PFAS NEMP

Australian Department of Health

SA Health

Adelaide Airport

Parafield Airport

SA Water