Up to 40,000 to sue Australian Government over PFAS contamination

By Charis Chang | news.com.au | October 29, 2019

Read full article by Charis Chang (news.com.au)

“The largest class action ever launched in Australia will be filed against the Federal Government by Christmas.

Up to 40,000 people living and working on land contaminated by the chemical compound PFAS will be covered by the action, which will be lodged against the Australian Government in the Federal Court.

Shine Lawyers told news.com.au the documents would be filed before Christmas and will focus on the impact of the contamination on people’s property prices.

It will be an open class action meaning that people don’t need to sign up to join in but they can opt-out if they prefer not to be involved…

The lawyers will argue that residents living in PFAS contaminated areas have seen their property prices fall, in some cases by up to 50 per cent. They believe the Federal Government should provide enough compensation to allow residents to leave these unsafe communities.

‘PFAS has leached into the environment well beyond the boundaries of defence force bases and fire stations into communities across Australia,’ Shine Lawyers national special counsel Joshua Aylward said…

Until recently PFAS chemicals were used in firefighting foam used by the Department of Defence in training facilities, starting in the 1970s.

There are about 18 sites around Australia that the department believes could be contaminated by the foams.

PFAS chemicals such as PFOS and PFOA have been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension and medically diagnosed high cholesterol in humans.

In 2016, the United Nation’s Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee to the Stockholm Convention, said that PFOS and PFOA were linked to six diseases, including some cancers, and warranted a global response.

But the official line from the Federal Government is that there is no substantial proof the chemicals cause significant human health risks.

American activist Erin Brockovich is assisting Shine Lawyers with the class action and rejected suggestions the chemicals were not harmful. She is ‘dumbfounded’ by what she considers is Australian inaction on the issue.

‘The science is in on these chemicals. It can cause cancer,’ Ms Brockovich told the Law Report.

Ms Brockovich raised questions about the Government’s position.

‘They give warnings: don’t eat the fish, eat limited fish, don’t drink the water – but on the other hand, you’re telling people it’s safe,’ she says.

‘It’s an extraordinarily confusing message.’

The latest class action comes after separate actions lodged by residents in areas like Williamtown, NSW, Katherine in the Northern Territory and Oakey in Queensland, that also cover economic loss to property.

The Oakey and Katherine actions are set down for trial in April next year.”

This content provided by the PFAS Project.