• Project No 3054
  • Project Name Draft NEMP3 – Scientific Review
  • Lead Organisation Water Research Australia
  • Research Lead University of Newcastle
  • Main Researcher Prof Ravi Naidu
  • Completion Year 2023

Project Description

As is now well understood, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s because of their useful properties, can be found in different matrices in our environments, ranging from soils, waters, plants and food to domestic everyday use articles and air.

One common characteristic of concern of PFAS is that many break down very slowly and can therefore build up in people, animals, and the environment over time.

The draft third version of the PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (PFAS NEMP 3.0) has recently been published for consultation. It has been developed under Heads of EPAs Australia and New Zealand (HEPA) by the National Chemicals Working Group and provides new and additional guidance and standards, building on the PFAS NEMP 2.0 published in 2020.

However, the challenges and opportunities by utilities to contribute to the circular economy whilst safeguarding human and environmental health are becoming more paramount, especially in light of the legacy background load of PFAS entering their wastewater treatment systems on the one hand, and the opportunity to contribute nutrients (through biosolids) and alleviate water scarcity (through recycled water) in support of agricultural production. Challenges range from onsite and/or landfill storage; application to crops and /or other environmental discharge points; OneHealth aspects (human and environmental toxicity assessments); assessment and monitoring criteria to be vetted against the ‘reasonable and practical’ criteria to balance costs. The jurisdictional and local context can increase the complexity of these challenges.

Water Research Australia contracted the University of Newcastle to undertake a scientific review of the Draft NEMP3.

The review formed a submission to the Heads of EPAs National Chemical Working Group (HEPA NCWG) on the current Draft PFAS NEMP 3.0 in February 2023.