They’ve brought the big guns out to this Queensland town and the woman who made her name fighting for everyday people against “the machine” seems to think there’s a huge case for the government to answer.
ENVIRONMENTAL activist Erin Brockovich has described Oakey’s groundwater contamination crisis as worse than what she witnessed in the United States, as she called on the community to speak up for change.
Ms Brockovich, 56, flew into Brisbane this week to speak with Oakey locals about the spread of toxic PFOS and PFOA from firefighting foam used by the Defence Force for decades.
The activist consults on environmental pollution cases in the US and Australia, and has most recently worked as an advocate for communities, such as Oakey, poisoned by PFOS and PFOA.
Speaking exclusively to The Courier-Mail, Ms Brockovich said the same contamination crisis was unfolding in several US states but that Oakey’s critical plight had not received the urgent government attention it deserved.
“These are toxic compounds that can wreak havoc with your health, and once they’re in you, they won’t leave,” she said.
“People (in Oakey) are sick, they have been harmed, and their property values have been degraded.”
According to Ms Brockovich — who is also an ambassador for Shine Lawyers, who is working with locals — the people of Oakey deserve to be heard by authorities.
“People need to get blood tests and arm themselves with information to make choices for their families,” she said.
“The Government’s job is to listen to these people and to let them know they’re not going to be ignored.
“This is going to blow up pretty quickly, but before we see a potential health crisis, we need to wrap our arms around this.”
Ms Brockovich visited Oakey last year to hear locals’ concerns and said today’s public meeting would educate them about the problem and the best way forward.
“There are innocent children in Oakey who are four years old with blood levels 10 times higher than the national median average … what will their futures look like?” she said.
“Australia has higher blood levels than I’ve seen in the US.”
TUG OF WAR OVER GOLD COAST AIRPORT DATA
AIRSERVICES Australia and the Queensland Environment Department have been embroiled in a bizarre tug-of-war over the Gold Coast Airport contamination scandal.
It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed the federal-owned Airservices Australia (ASA) had been notified of serious PFOS and PFOA contamination at the Gold Coast Airport as early as 2008 but the state environment and health departments did not receive a copy until this year.
The report detailed significant health and environmental concerns associated with the extensive contamination but State Government departments claimed they had not been informed.
According to an ASA spokesman, a copy of the report, conducted by engineering firm GHD, was provided to the Environment Department’s Contaminated Land Unit in March 2009, almost a year after it was released.
“We can confirm that the 2008 GHD study … was provided to the environment regulator in Queensland,” he said.
But a Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokesman said the report could not be located.
“To the best of the department’s knowledge, no actual report on Gold Coast Airport contamination was received until last month.”