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Poisonabull moves into Bullsbrook

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A new bull has landed on Bullsbrook’s Bull Trail and he’s already made quite an impact.

PFAS – Poisonabull is the creation of Anne and Frank Sibbel, who have used the platform of the bull trail to generate a conversation about the topic of Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination that has been part of the everyday lives of West Bullsbrook residents for more than three years.

PFAS was an ingredient in legacy firefighting foam used worldwide by civilian and military authorities. PFAS is now known to be persistent in the environment and in humans. It was used on RAAF Base Pearce (and other local sites), and has been found in groundwater in private residential bores in West Bullsbrook. The area is not connected to scheme water and residents rely on it as their primary source of drinking water. Department of Defence have been supplying these homes with bottled water during the investigation period.

Poisonabull’s installation coincided with a community information session run by Department of Defence on July 10 to update residents on the environmental investigation.

Unfortunately, there’s was little positive news to be relayed. Residents whose bores returned PFAS levels below the level of reporting in the last round of testing will have their bottled water supply stopped in October this year. The properties who have had PFAS detected will continue to receive bottled water and in time have a filtration system fitted to their bores.

As a resident in the effected area my main concern is in the mobility of groundwater and PFAS chemicals. Bores with previously undetected levels during one round of testing have had PFAS detected the next round. Are we to just play Russian Roulette with our tap water and hope that this particular day it is still a PFAS-free zone?

The current (2016) advice is that there is no consistent evidence that exposure to PFAS causes adverse human health effects. However, since these chemicals remain in humans and the environment for many years, it is recommended that human exposure to PFAS be minimised. Any risks identified by elevated PFAS results in the environment in the management report prepared by Department of Defence have been classified as ‘low and acceptable’.

However, there was a time when risk from exposure to cigarette smoke was considered ‘low and acceptable’. The reality is the potential long-term effects are just not known.

The solution most likely to remediate the issue of having access to safe drinking water is to connect West Bullsbrook to scheme water. The state government and Water Corporation have agreed to this plan, but are waiting for funding from the Commonwealth government.

Federal Member for Pearce Christian Porter attended the information session on July 10.

“As your local Member of Parliament, my advocacy and lobbying on behalf of the residents will be that there should be scheme water and the Commonwealth should make a contribution to that on a pro-rata basis,” he said.

Bullsbrook resident Anne Janes, who instigated the idea for a bull trail, has refuted some suggestions that Poisonabull should not be part of the trail, which was intended as a fun, light-hearted community project.

“I would like to keep “Poisonabull” in the trail. Some of our community are really hurting and this is a good way to remind everyone that the PFAS issue is real. All of Bullsbrook should be aware now and support one another. This is not trivial. It’s an important message,” she said.

“When residents in West Bullsbrook receive a satisfactory outcome, ie safe drinking water, maybe then ‘Poisonabull’ will become more ‘Sociabull’.”