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Defence considers paying for town water connections in cove

TAPPED IN: Defence is considering paying for town water connections for residents outside of the Williamtown contamination zone.THE Department of Defence is considering paying for residents outside of the Williamtown contamination“red zone” to be connected to town water after the chemicals at the centre of the scandal were found 300metres south of the investigation area.

TheNewcastle Heraldunderstands that elevated concentrations of perfluorooctane sulfonateand perfluorooctanoic acid–or PFOS and PFOA–were foundat two propertieson Fullerton Cove Road during Defence testing in recent weeks.

According to the EnvironmentProtection Authority the samples were taken from boreand tank water at the request of the residents.

And while the EPA is insisting that“no changes to the investigation area are warranted” as a result of the discovery, theHeraldhas confirmedthat Defence is considering paying for connections to town water for residents outside of the investigation area.

“Yes, Defence is investigating the possibility of paying to connect some residents to town water outside the investigation area,” a spokesman said on Friday.

“Defence is examining options and will make a decision once the options have been considered.”

The spokesman insisted that Defence was “already examining options to connect a limited number of residents on the outside edge of the investigation area”.

However theHeraldunderstands the discovery of what Defence called“low level detections” so far from the red zonemay influence the area considered for connection.

Officials wouldn’t be drawn on the issue on Friday, butthe stategovernment’s parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, saidthe government was “continuing to work with Defence, and pursue Defence” on the issue of town water connections.

Asked if Hunter Water was considering connecting residents to town water, spokesman Jeremy Bath did not rule it out, but said itwould“only expand the current project to provide free connection to properties inside the investigation area, if directed to do so by the NSW Government”.

GREAT NEWS: Newcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne.

In December the Baird government announced $3.5 million topay to connect residents within the red zone to town water.

But those outside on the edge ofthe investigation area were not part of the package, andNewcastle Greens Councillor Michael Osborne has been contacted by residents who live outside of the investigation area in Fullerton Cove who had been quoted costs of between 10 and 15 thousand dollars to connect to town water.

When he raised the idea of those residents having their connections paid forin a meeting with Defence officials earlier this year he said they“pushed back hard”.

“It’s great news thatthey are considering it now,” he said.

The test results from the two properties in Fullerton Cove were received on August 21.According to the Environmental Protection Authority the samples were taken from boreand tank water at the request of the residents.

While it saidPFOS–the main chemical of concern at WIlliamtown–was detected below the enHealth guidance for PFAS, as well as the US EPA criteria, it didnot comment on the level for PFOAor other compounds known to exist within the pollution plume.

“TheEPAis writing to Defence to request that further sampling be conducted in this area to gain a clearer picture about the significance of these results and their relationship to the broader contamination issue and the investigation area,” a spokeswoman for the environment watchdog said.

“It is important to note that due to their wide-spread use over many decades, PFAS are commonly found in the environment at low levels and their presence does not necessarily indicate a risk to human health.”

Also on Friday, the Department of Premier and Cabinet dismissed concerns that there are plans to abolish the Community Reference Group–set up as a conduit between the EPA, Defence and Williamtown residents.

A spokesmansaid the group would“continue”, despite a planned review.

“The upcoming review of the CRG will ensure improvements in delivering better community consultation in line with the next stage of work,” he said

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