The army defends methods of testing firefighting extinguishing media in the face of criticism from a specialist law firm.
The Ministry of the Environment's investigation began in December 2017, when PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl) found in Ohakea and Woodbourne airbases at higher levels than health guidelines allow. Recently, tests have confirmed water pollution near the Whenuapai air base in Auckland.
Shine Lawyers, who leads four class actions in Australia regarding PFAS toxins, demanded more rigorous testing and greater transparency on the part of defense forces.
"To isolate individual chemicals to test them on some EPAs [Environmental Protection Agency] the standard is rather … a criminal exercise than a full study of the true size of PFAS pollution, "said Shine lawyers," said Tim Gunn.
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Shine Lawyers also advised people affected in New Zealand.
EarlierPFAS chemicals are not naturally degraded and can accumulate over time in human and animal bodies as a result of soil and water contamination, Gunn said.
"You can not dig it out, you can not put another relationship on it to mask it," Gunn said.
Shine Lawyers wanted the defense forces to take "the most up-to-date and current" tests called TOPA (total oxidizable precursor test).
TOPA tests, adopted and used in Australia, could indicate "hot zones" in which there was the greatest pollution of PFAS, said Gunn.
However, a spokesperson for New Zealand said that TOPA does not identify specific relationships and there are no published criteria to assess the significance of a particular outcome.
"NZDF uses standard tests and a set of PFAS compounds used in commercial laboratories that provide samples of 28 compounds, including PFAS, PFOA and PFHxS, which are compounds that provide temporary guidance for drinking water adopted by the Ministry of Health.
"These tests allow us to determine if any sampled water source meets the guidelines." TOPA does not do this. "
Recently, tests completed in August revealed PFAS traces in the Whenuapai wells and in surface water up to 1 km from the airbase.
Thanks to the Australian actions of the Shine Lawyers class, they said that PFAS chemicals polluted local soils and groundwater, negatively affecting residents, their land and livelihoods.
Gunn said Shine Lawyers did not intend to "shake" with regard to "persistent environmental toxin", but rather to create awareness of the true extent of contamination.
This should include a nationwide conversation around PFAS, and defense forces are more transparent through testing, he said.
"Even more deepening this problem is the fact that the results of the tests were kept secret – only thanks to OIA conclusions and other research we were able to discover the real, difficult test results.
"They [the Defence Force] they obviously know they are in touch and trying to stay calm, everything they think they want to do is protect themselves from responsibility … There's no place to hide, "said Gunn.
However, the defense forces recognized the information they collected as testing the water supply in private homes as confidential for interested landowners – said the spokesperson.
"All information collected by NZDF has been forwarded to relevant governmental and regulatory agencies."
The summary reports for the Ohakea and Woodbourne tests were posted on the website of the Ministry of the Environment, he said.
Professor Ian Shaw, a professor of toxicology at the University of Canterbury, admitted that the case was complicated.
"This is a very complex debate, which I think is not complete yet, so it is very difficult to interpret the results of residue measurements.
Shaw explained that the chemical structure of PFOS does not suggest that the molecule is carcinogenic because there are no chemical groups that would react with DNA.
Shaw decided, however, that the Shine Lawyers spot on PFAS residues present on land and probably in food was "good".
"I do not think that the residues have been tested – they should be, because PFAS / PFOS are persistent in the environment and ecosystems if we are to properly assess the risk."
At that time, water pollution in Whenuapai, a county councilman in Albany, Wayne Walker, was confirmed that low levels of pollution are "still a cause for concern."
Watson said that Shine Lawyers' call for broader, more transparent tests of the entire ecosystem was "a reasonable request to do."
"Any attempt to make a mistake on the side of caution is certainly what I support, and a call for greater accuracy and communication of results."