It has been confirmed by the Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti that 90,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil from Perth Airport is being used as backfill at the Kenwick Rail Freight Facility project.
The McGowan government has been accused of dumping the excavated soil, contaminated by Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), to avoid paying millions of dollars for it to go to landfill.
PFAS is a group of persistent organic pollutants including PFOS and PFOA. The Australian Expert Panel for PFAS report showed that the evidence on health effects associated with PFAS exposure is limited but the current reviews of health and scientific research provide fairly consistent reports of associations with several health outcomes.
Some of these include increased cholesterol, increased uric acid, reduced kidney function, altered markers of immunological response, levels of thyroid and sex hormone levels, later menarche and earlier menopause, and lower birth weight.
Ms Saffioti said the government has clear options in place for soil removal and management of the Forrestfield Airport Link project.
“The soil is being re-used on other state government transport infrastructure projects as it is safe and prudent in achieving the best outcome for taxpayers,” she said.
“PFAS are ubiquitous, they can be found at low levels in soils, surface water and groundwater in most urban areas in WA and nationally.
“PFAS levels in the soil are in fact very similar to the readings generally found around Perth so there is no cause for concern.
“We are continuing to work with the Federal government and the airport on the best way to remove or reuse the soil, all in accordance with strict environmental requirements.”
However multiple community members and environmental activists are highly concerned about the issue.
Environmental activist Paddy Cullen has been trying to arrange meetings with Ms Saffioti and wants the government to take legal action to remove the contaminated soil from the local community.
“This is a wetland area so the chances of the chemical moving would have to be significant,” he said.
“If it drains into the Canning River, the toxicity would be hard to be contained.”
So far, neither Ms Saffioti nor the premier has agreed to meet Mr Cullen to discuss the issue.
Mr Cullen, along with other activists and community members, collected some of the contaminated soil on site on Tuesday morning and will be taking the jars to the premier’s office next week.
City of Gosnells mayor Glenn Dewhurst said he was horrified when he heard about the contaminated soil being placed at PTA’s Kenwick Rail Freight Facility.
“This is just another kick in the guts for the residents in the City of Gosnells,” he said.
“The state is holding up over a billion dollars of development in our city, we have been waiting 10 years to get permission to develop Maddington, waiting 20 years for sewage to be completed in Maddington, yet the only thing moving forward in our city is that it is being used as a toxic waste dump.
“The City of Gosnells is well aware of PFAS reporting obligations and continues to discuss this with developers working in the city.
“This will have to be one of the most profound environmental disasters and government covers ups I have ever seen.”