Update on EPA's fire-fighting foams investigation

15 February 2018

The formal investigation into fire-fighting foams manufactured using PFOS or PFOA is progressing.

EPA’s General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter said considerable preparatory work has been completed for the investigation into whether these foams are being held or used at airports and other locations.

“We have assembled an expert in-house team, including managers, legal and senior staff with experience in regulatory matters, including enforcement and compliance. We have also recruited an expert lead investigator with considerable experience in compliance and enforcement issues in complex regulatory environments,” Dr Thomson-Carter said.

The in-house team has developed an investigation plan, so it can methodically establish the facts at various sites around New Zealand. Preliminary discussions have been held to scope the potential scale of the issue.

“The EPA’s overall aim is to ensure all organisations and individuals are complying with their legal obligations,” Dr Thomson-Carter says.

“It is likely that quantities of these foams remain in circulation. Provided they are stored safely they do not pose any immediate risk to the environment or human safety. The EPA is providing guidance on safe storage and disposal of these substances for those that hold them.”

Fire-fighting foams manufactured using PFOS or PFOA have not been legal for use in New Zealand since 2006. Historically they were used to extinguish liquid fuel fires.

All hazardous substances, including fire-fighting foams, that are imported, manufactured or used in New Zealand require approval by the EPA under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

“As we said when announcing the investigation, we cannot comment on its substance until we release the outcome,” Dr Thomson-Carter said.

For further information:

Guidance on storing and disposing of fire-fighting foams

Email the EPA Communications Team