Retired army medic drenched in 'poisonous' foam

A RETIRED army medic is angry he wasn't told of health concerns about a firefighting foam in which he was regularly soaked.

The man, who did not want to be named, lived in the married quarters with his family at the Oakey Army Aviation Centre between 1988 and 1996.

He rose to the rank of sergeant in his latter years at the base and was in charge of the crash rescue medic team.

The Department of Defence in July last year began holding community information sessions on the potential effects of firefighting foam chemicals which had leached from the base into the underground water supply.

The former medic said he only found out about the concerns when he was at Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre earlier this month.

Someone he started talking to mentioned the groundwater investigation and the concerns over the foam.

"I used to be drenched in that stuff," he said.

"I was told it was safe."

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He and his fellow medics would be at least waist deep in the foam during rescue training drills.

"You could be in it for two hours.

"If you questioned anything, I remember the firies saying 'it is just like washing detergent'."

The former medic recalled dubious disposal procedures for expired drums of the foam.

"I remember them pouring drums of this stuff down the bloody drainpipes."

He said he would like to have blood tests done, similar to affected Oakey residents, to help determine if the exposure had affected him.

He was also concerned about the water his family drank, bathed and swam in at the base.

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A Defence spokeswoman said a briefing about the foam was given to personnel on base in December last year, but the department had not actively engaged with former defence force members and their families who were outside the Oakey community.

The spokeswoman said former personnel and their families who lived on base at Oakey were unlikely to have experienced high exposure to the chemicals through drinking contaminated groundwater or by being exposed to the foam.

She did not deny the former medic's foam disposal claim.

"Defence is unable to confirm the practise of disposing of firefighting chemicals between 1988 and 2004," she said.

"Defence can advise, however, that since the construction of a purpose-built firefighting pad in 2004, all firefighting chemicals have been captured in a storage tank and removed for processing by a private contractor."

She said water for those who lived on base was sourced from rainwater tanks, potable water tanks and bores, depending on the time in question.

"Bore water was predominately used for air field irrigation, showers, toilets, the pool and outside watering.

"However, given the timeframe involved, Defence cannot definitely state that bore water was not used for drinking water on base."

Concerned individuals, including former defence force members and their families, can obtain more information at defence.gov.au/id/oakey/ or by calling 1800 136 129.



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