Australian landowners whose properties were contaminated by toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have secured a multimillion-dollar payout of $132.7 million. The class action suit alleged that the commonwealth government did not adequately prevent toxic chemicals from firefighting foam, or Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), used on air force bases from contaminating soil and groundwater. The settlement, which covers about 30,000 landowners near seven sites, awaits final approval from a judge.
The lawsuit alleged that the commonwealth failed to prevent the toxic chemicals from contaminating the environment. The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, expressed concern about the health of Australians affected by PFAS contamination, stating at a press conference, "The biggest concern that I have with PFAS isn’t, of course, a financial one – it is the health outcomes of people who are affected by it."
The so-called "forever chemicals" are linked to various health issues, including cancers, birth defects and diseases. The settlement follows a previous agreement in 2020 where the Department of Defence agreed to pay landholders near three other bases a total of $212.5 million.
Craig Allsopp, Shine Lawyers' joint head of class actions, commented on the settlement: “The settlement money, if approved, will go some way to compensate the seven communities in this class action for their losses; however, many are still stuck on contaminated land.” Another case involving Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council has been adjourned for further mediation.