Queensland Prawn Farmers Blame Qantas for Toxic Leak, Demand Money

20th Apr 2017

Queensland prawn farmers are seeking compensation from Qantas Airways after about 22,000 liters of toxic firefighting foam leaked from the Australian carrier's hangar into the Brisbane River. The foam, containing perfluorooctanoic acid, was released into the stormwater system following a malfunction of the sprinkler system at the hangar.

The Brisbane government advised last Friday recreational fishers not to catch fish in this area; however commercial operators, including prawn farmers, were not warned about the spill until this Tuesday. This was more than a week after the incident happened.

As a result, according to Michael Wood, Vice President of Moreton Bay Seafood Association, his company lost an order worth $10,000 due to fear that the waterways are contaminated with toxic spill.

He said:

"What's Qantas going to do? The industry's looking for compensation. We want to talk to [chief executive] Alan Joyce for starters to see what they're going to do for us and how they're going to repair the damage to the general public."

Woods also said that he does not believe 4,000 to 5,000 liters of this foam would seriously infect the Brisbane River. He said, that, even if somebody digested it, they would have to "eat a hell of a lot of product" for it to have any affect.

It's just like picking up a glass of water, you won't even notice it.

Sophie Dwyer, a spokeswoman for Queensland Health advised people to try and minimize their exposure to chemicals such as PFOA, even though there is no consistent evidence it can cause "adverse health effects", as a precaution.

She said on Thursday:

"But consumption of small amounts as part of a broad diet is of negligible risk."

When it comes to the risk of eating contaminated prawns, Dwyer said that she would have to wait for test result from the spill site itself before drawing "fully detailed conclusions".

She said:

"But we do know that this food ... only forms a small part of any individuals' daily consumption of food."

Qantas has not yet commented on this.

Jeanette Young, Queensland chief health officer said:

"I recommend people avoid eating seafood that was caught in the potentially contaminated area until the results of environment department testing are known," Young said. "While there is currently no consistent evidence that PFOA exposure causes adverse health harm in humans, I understand this was a significant spill."