Shine Lawyers is currently investigating a class action against the Commonwealth Government for contaminating land and water in Townsville with PFAS chemicals. Firefighting chemicals used at the RAAF Base Townsville have been detected in groundwater and surface water samples taken on the Base. The Commonwealth is currently investigating the possibility that these chemicals have escaped into surrounding areas.
Landholder claims - Property and business owners
Shine Lawyers' Class Action department is investigating an action on behalf of members of the Townsville community who own residential and commercial property in the investigation area. The risk is that taint of contamination has the potential to negatively impact both business and land values, and could leave many residents with significant financial loss.
If wider PFAS contamination is established, the Townsville Class Action will be seeking compensation for loss of value of residential, agricultural and business land as a result of the contamination - these are known as landholder claims. If you own land or a business in the area being investigated by the Commonwealth, you may be eligible to join the class action.
Please note that the investigation does not cover any personal injury claims that may arise from exposure to PFAS contamination.
Contamination of Townsville groundwater
The Department of Defence has a history of using a type of firefighting foam - AFFF. AFFF contains chemicals known as per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals are concerning because they do not break down naturally and persist in water, plant, animal and human systems. Even small amounts of daily exposure to PFAS compounds can lead to relatively high concentrations over a lifetime.
Investigations are currently underway to determine the extent of land and groundwater contamination from the use of PFAS chemicals on the RAAF Base Townsville. For more information on the investigations, visit the Department of Defence website.
Am I eligible to join the class action?
The Commonwealth has commenced a detailed environmental investigation of the soil, surface water and groundwater surrounding the RAAF Base Townsville. As part of this investigation, the Commonwealth has released a map identifying the extent of the investigation area. A copy of the investigation area map can be found here.
Currently, to be eligible to join the class action, your property or business must be located in or around the investigation area. There are two main categories of individuals who will be eligible to join the action:
- Property owners within or around the investigation area whose land has been contaminated or has otherwise been impacted by the contamination; and
- Commercial businesses within or around the investigation area who have been impacted financially by the contamination.
Please note that the eligibility criteria for the class action may be amended as investigations progress. We'll keep you informed if anything changes.
Who is Shine Lawyers' Class Action team?
Shine Lawyers' Class Action team includes some of the firm’s most experienced partners, associates, solicitors and support staff, including researchers, law clerks and paralegals. The team handling the Townsville Contamination Class Action includes:
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Common questions about Townsville Contamination Class Action – Landholder claims
If wider PFAS contamination is established, then it would be alleged that the Commonwealth negligently allowed contaminants in the fire-fighting foam to escape from RAAF Base Townsville, causing damage to property owners and businesses and/or causing unlawful impacts.
Various studies have suggested that exposure to PFAS chemicals has the potential to cause adverse health impacts in humans.
A scientific panel in the US concluded that there was a probable link between exposure to one of the chemicals and kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis and hypercholesterolemia. Some research suggests broader health concerns.
There are concerns whether groundwater contaminated by PFAS should be used to water crops or livestock. The chemicals don't readily break down in natural systems, and increase through the food chain.
Shine Lawyers’ research has found that the UK Public Health authorities advise skin or eye exposure to the relevant chemicals may cause irritation. There is also uncertainty whether contaminated bore water is suitable for bathing.
All the concerns about PFAS contamination have the potential to affect land prices in and around the affected area in Townsville. Property and business owners are at risk of significant financial harm as a result of taint causing drops in land value.
These are man-made chemicals that were first used to make non-stick frying pans in the 1950s. The chemicals were later used in a range of products including Scotchgard Sprays, carpet treatment, Gortex clothing and firefighting foams.
The chemicals can be ingested by humans through drinking or eating (and possibly inhaling) substances that contain them. The chemicals are not easily eliminated from the body and accumulate. This means that even small amounts of daily exposure can lead to relatively high concentrations over a lifetime. The chemicals are said to have a half-life in the human body of around 4 to 9 years and are reported to accumulate primarily in the blood, kidneys and liver.
Studies have also revealed that the chemicals can increase through the food chain, with human exposure being shown to have occurred following ingestion of contaminated crops and livestock.
Following a class action in the US, a scientific panel concluded that there was a probable link between PFOA exposure and kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, pregnancy-induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis and hypercholesterolemia.
There have also been adverse health effects observed in laboratory animals following deliberate exposure to toxic concentrations of PFOS and PFOA, including:
- Liver, thyroid and pancreatic cancer
- Changes in liver size, weight loss and increased allergic response in rats, and
- Skin irritation and conjunctivitis in rabbits.
The effects of PFOS/PFOA exposure on developing children is not well understood.
The Commonwealth has indicated that it will be undertaking further human health risk assessments.
Regardless of the outcome, the litigation funder and Shine Lawyers will only be repaid from any settlement proceeds, not out of the claimants’ pockets.
Why choose Shine
Meet the team
Shine Lawyers also have accredited specialists in personal injury law in:
Jodie Willey, Brisbane
Kathryn Rayner, Townsville
Melissa O'Neill, Brisbane
Michelle Wright, Springwood
Roger Singh, Brisbane
Simon Morrison, Brisbane
Stuart Le Grand, Melbourne
Ron Kramer, Fairfield
Susan Newman, Sydney
Zlatko Mackic, Liverpool
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