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Devonport PFAS investigation complete

Published: 31 January 2019

Auckland Council has recently received the findings of the New Zealand Defence Force’s detailed investigation into the presence of PFAS compounds at the Devonport Naval Base and surrounding Ngataringa Bay.

The council has not been involved in the Defence Force PFAS testing programme or in the collation and analysis of its test results.

However, we are currently completing our own review of their findings to better understand the impacts on the local community and the environment and to determine the next steps required by central government agencies and Auckland Council.

The health and welfare of residents and the surrounding environment is Auckland Council’s top priority. 

The council is working closely with the Ministry for the Environment-led All of Government PFAS Working Group on understanding this emerging contaminant and the impacts for the local area that may arise from the results of the Defence Force’s testing.

This includes working with the Ministry for the Environment to fully understand the regulatory responsibilities regarding PFAS contamination of non-Crown owned land, and the Ministries of Primary Industries and Health on any potential risks to human health.

The Defence Force is keeping the council informed on its investigations and we will be updating Aucklanders on developments with the work being done by the Defence Force and other local and central government agencies.

A copy of the New Zealand Defence Force’s Devonport Naval Base detailed site investigation is available here.

No health risk

Advice from the Ministry of Health remains that there is no acute health risk from exposure to PFAS compounds. There is currently no consistent evidence that environmental exposures to PFAS compounds (such as PFOS and PFOA) causes adverse human health effects.

What are PFAS compounds?

PFAS is an acronym for a group of chemical compounds known as per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances.

They are a class of man-made chemicals that have been used since the 1950s in the production of a wide range of consumer and industrial products that resist heat, stains, grease and water, including non-stick cookware, greaseproof paper, waterproof clothing, furniture and carpet protectants, cosmetics, floor wax and specialised firefighting foam.

Two of these compounds (PFOS and PFOA) were historically used in the manufacture of firefighting foams from the 1970s to early 2000s but are no longer imported or manufactured in New Zealand. 

The Defence Force has not been supplied any foams containing PFOS and PFOA above trace levels since at least 2002.  No training with foams containing PFAS is carried out at the base currently.

The Defence Force investigation at Devonport follows the detection of PFAS compounds at Defence Force bases across New Zealand and concerns that the chemicals may have spread beyond base areas. An All of Government group, led by the Ministry for the Environment, is overseeing the PFAS programme of work.

More information

More information about PFAS and the Government’s response, including health and food safety advice, is available on the Ministry for the Environment website.