Field & Game Australia

Interim health risk assessment for Heart Morass

Heart Morass; drone photo by Trent Leen

Today the Department of Defence released their Interim Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (HHERA) of the PFAS contamination site around the RAAF Base East Sale.

The HHERA has identified potentially elevated risks associated with the home consumption of duck meat and duck liver recreationally hunted from The Heart Morass even at low consumption rates (i.e. 1 serve of duck/month)

The interim assessment is based on currently available data, and makes it clear that further investigation would assist with refining the findings of the current risk assessment (specifically where potentially elevated risks are identified), and the requirement for management measures.

PFAS levels were extremely high in ALL meat, skin and liver samples taken from ducks at Heart Morass - some between 100 and 1000 times the trigger point for Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The report was detailed at a community walk-in session in Sale (photo Daryl Snowdon)

The conclusion that consumption of duck meat and duck liver recreationally hunted from The Heart Morass even at low consumption rates (i.e. 1 serve of duck/month) is of serious concern to Field & Game Australia.

“We attended a briefing at RAAF East Sale prior to the release of the interim report and made it clear that further scientific study is needed to establish the full extent of the problems at Heart Morass and the impact on dynamic and mobile wild duck populations,” FGA chairman Bill Paterson said.

“There’s an equally serious human element to this, our members hunted and consumed ducks from Heart Morass long before Defence publicly acknowledged the PFAS contamination.”

In October 2017 the Environmental Protection Authority Victoria issued advice not to consume ducks, fish or eels from heart Morass is unchanged but Mr Paterson said the warning raises many questions.

“If I harvest a duck at Heart Morass how do I know it hasn’t just flown in from afar? And if I take a bird from another wetland, how do I know it hasn’t just flown in from Heart Morass?” he said.

“We need a scientific basis for assessing PFAS levels in wild duck populations and not just at Heart Morass.”

A warning sign erected at Heart Morass (photo Daryl Snowdon)

“The consumption advice is based on limited data and an offer to investigate human impacts through samples taken from volunteer FGA members was declined.”

There is no clear evidence of human health risks from PFAS but authorities are being extremely cautious because the chemical is persistent in the environment and cumulative when consumed. The interim assessment states:

Based on the assessment, there is concluded to be an elevated risk associated with the home consumption of duck meat and duck liver recreationally hunted from The Heart Morass even at low consumption rates (i.e. 1 serve of duck/month). The identification of potentially elevated risks does not necessarily indicate that there will be adverse effects, but instead that management of risks and/or further investigation/assessment may be warranted.

Mr Paterson said FGA, its charitable Wetlands Environmental Taskforce, volunteer members and partner organisations have worked for more than a decade to restore the Heart Morass as a thriving and important wetland.

“We will continue to care for the Heart Morass but the contamination issue will seriously impact on our ability to fund the necessary annual maintenance and environmental works,” he said.

“We are still selling access keys but the reality is that members will make their own assessment based on the current information and we suspect many will choose to avoid Heart Morass based on the current advice."

You can access the interim report here

The following is an extract from the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment report:

Conclusions of Duck Consumption Risk Assessment

Based on the assessment, there is concluded to be an elevated risk associated with the home consumption of duck meat and duck liver recreationally hunted from The Heart Morass even at low consumption rates (i.e. 1 serve of duck/month). The identification of potentially elevated risks does not necessarily indicate that there will be adverse effects, but instead that management of risks and/or further investigation/assessment may be warranted.

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