People are being urged to avoid eating fish caught at Shellgrit Creek.
People are being urged to avoid eating fish caught at Shellgrit Creek. Mike Richards GLA290417FISH

'Do not eat the fish': chemical detected in Mackay waterway

UPDATE 12pm: A TOXIC chemical has been detected in fish sampled from a Mackay creek.

The shocking news was released by Airservices Australia today, a government owned corporation monitoring levels of PFAS at airports across the country.  

Airservices has recently undertaken some targeted sampling at Mackay Airport including targeted sampling in surrounding areas.    

The results show PFAS detected above human health guidelines in fish sampled in Shellgrit Creek, adjacent to the airport.  

Queensland Health is urging people not to eat fish caught in the creek due to the possible health risks.

Shellgrit Creek, Mackay.
Shellgrit Creek, Mackay. Contributed.

"The test results show elevated levels of the chemical and consequently, possibly health risks for people who eat the fish over a long period of time," a Queensland Health spokeswoman said.  

"There is no health risk for people who have infrequently eaten fish from this creek."  

An Airservices spokeswoman said the exact source of the PFAS was unknown.  

"The location indicates that is unlikely a result of Airservices' activities," she said.  

"I can confirm drinking water has not been contaminated, but we have notified the Mackay Airport and the Queensland state regulator so that appropriate action can be taken."  

Mackay Recreational Fishers Alliance president John Bennett said Shellgrit Creek was a popular place to fish for local residents.  

"It's a small creek down the end of Far Beach, it's as popular as any spot around the place," he said.  

"People go down there and catch bream, whiting and flathead.  

"A lot of the fish would be swimming in and out of the creek, so it would only be the ones that stay there for a long time that I'd be worried about.  

"I think the duration of exposure is what matters."  

The testing conducted by Airservices showed that groundwater and surface water inside the Mackay Airport had PFAS levels above national recreational use guideline values at some locations, while the PFAS levels in surface water at Shellgrit Creek were below the guidelines.  

The testing is part of an investigation by Airservices Australia and the organisation has confirmed it will carry out further investigations near the airport to verify the extent of contamination and any potential human health or ecological risks.  

Airservices stopped using fire-fighting foam containing PFAS at Mackay Airport in 2010.  

Anyone concerned about their health should talk to their doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

EARLIER:

A POTENTIALLY harmful substance has been detected in a Mackay waterway.

An ABC Tropical North report this morning has urged the public to avoid eating fish caught at Shellgrit Creek.

"Levels of the chemical PFAS have been found in water and fish samples taken near the Mackay Airport," the report read.

"Air Service Australia has notified Queensland Health that there are possible health risks for people who have consumed fish caught in the area over a long period of time."

Fire-fighting foam containing perfluorinated substances such as perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate were used in fire-fighting and fire-fighting training from the 1970s to the mid-2000s.

Use of the foams occurred at various Australian sites including civil airports, military air bases, large fuel storage terminals and refineries and ports.

PFAS has been detected in past years at the Mackay Airport and the Port of Mackay. Airservices continues to monitor the levels of PFAS at these locations.

Studies have shown increased exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes in humans.