Shine Lawyers is investigating a potential super class action against the Department of Defence on behalf of residents whose properties have been contaminated with the toxic firefighting foam PFAS throughout Australia.
Any action would be an open class action, meaning residents living in eight affected communities who meet certain criteria will automatically be included unless they choose not to be involved.
National Special Counsel Joshua Aylward said he estimates up to 40,000 people live in these communities, and are affected by these chemicals.
“These are generally not wealthy people who can simply pack up and leave,” Mr Aylward said.
"They can't sell their properties because people won't buy them and even if there was an interested party, they would likely offer peanuts, or be unable to get finance.”
In addition to economic loss, Mr Aylward said the emotional toll on affected families has been enormous.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with people who are crying because they've found out that their water is contaminated and they and their kids have been drinking it for years.”
“Residents are learning that their kids have exceptionally high levels of PFAS in their blood and they are really concerned for their family.”
Shine Lawyers Ambassador Erin Brockovich, who has been travelling Australia this week, said the Commonwealth has been sending mixed messages to the community.
“Residents are being told it doesn’t pose a risk to their health but at the same time the Government is giving them bottled water,” she said.
“It's an extraordinarily confusing message.”
Any class action would be separate from proceedings launched on behalf of residents in the towns of Oakey (QLD) and Katherine (NT).
The super class action investigation includes eight new locations: Darwin, Wagga Wagga, Richmond, Townsville (two sites), Bullsbrook, Edinburgh and Wodonga.
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