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ALGA Announces New CEO

ALGA Announces New CEO

The CEO Search is Complete – We Have a New Leader!

The Australasian Land & Groundwater Association (ALGA) Ltd announced today that its Board of Directors has appointed Donald Coventry as Chief Executive Officer, effective 5 June 2019.

ALGA Chair of the Board, Craig Cowper, said Donald was chosen after a robust selection process.

“Donald is an outstanding choice, bringing a wealth of experience from the not-for-profit sector, particularly in the areas of organisational development and stakeholder engagement”, he said.

Donald was recently CEO for Natural Resource Management South in Tasmania, and has held previous roles in the not-for-profit sector, including CEO of Southern Gulf Catchment in Queensland and CEO of Birdlife Australia in Melbourne.

“This appointment marks the start of an exciting new chapter for ALGA. The Board is looking forward to working with Donald to ensure ALGA continues delivering its strategic plan and fulfils the Association’s mission for Australasia to be the leader in the sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater”, Mr Cowper said.

Commenting on the appointment, Mr Coventry said he was excited to be taking on the role.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the ALGA membership and broader industry stakeholders, to ensure we execute ALGA’s strategic plan”, he said.

“My priorities when I begin will be to meet with members, particularly volunteers across ALGA’s interest groups and branch committees, and exploring how we can improve delivery of industry training and information sharing.”

“ALGA is also gearing up for its first annual EcoForum conference and exhibition, being held in Auckland New Zealand this year, and I’m very keen to ensure the success of that event”.

Mr Coventry takes over the CEO role from Elisabethe Dank, who has successfully led ALGA from its inception in 2008, to become the peak industry body it is today.

About ALGA

The Australasian Land and Groundwater Association (ALGA) was formed to provide a forum and identity for the Australasian contaminated land and groundwater industry, and to support the many professionals working in the field. The core focus of the association is to support advances in the prevention, assessment and remediation of contaminated land and groundwater.

ALGA's mission is to promote the protection, restoration and management of land and groundwater for the benefit of human health and the broader environment across Australasia.

ALGA has a broad base of members including land owners, property developers, industry, consultants, scientists and engineers, contractors, regulatory and government agencies, the legal profession, laboratory staff, financiers, insurers, researchers and academics.

For more information or media enquiries, please contact:

Name: Craig Cowper

Role: Chair of the Board

Phone: 0407 989 885


Name: Ian Brookman

Role: President

Phone: 0418 524 671


Improving measurement reliability of the PFAS top assay

The work described in this report was conducted to fulfil the inaugural Australasian Land and Groundwater Association (ALGA) Research and Development Grant. The project was an inter-laboratory assessment of the per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) total oxidisable precursor (TOP) assay conducted by the project team – National Measurement Institute (NMI), Australian Laboratory Services (ALS), Eurofins and Ventia Utility Services Pty Ltd (Ventia).

The PFAS total oxidisable precursor (TOP) assay was first developed in 2012 as a method for identifying per- and poly-fluorinated non-target PFAS, thereby providing a better understanding of the extent of overall PFAS contamination present within a sample.

The method for the study involved preparation of four spiked water samples by NMI and analysis of the samples by NMI, Australian Laboratory Services, Eurofins. The four spiked water samples were:

  • S1 - milliQ water spiked with Tridol foam (40,000 x dilution) and PFOSA.
  • S2 - milliQ water spiked with spiked with 8:2 monoPAP, PFDA and PFOS.
  • S3 - milliQ water spiked with Tridol foam (40,000 x dilution), PFOSA, PFDA and PFHxS.
  • S4 - diluted liquid from a worm farm (Total Organic Carbon content of 120 mg/L) spiked with Tridol foam (40,000 x dilution) and PFOSA, PFDA and PFHxS. ALS and Eurofins did not know the contents of the samples, pre-analysis. All three laboratories analysed the samples pre- and post-TOP assay. All laboratories based their TOP Assay method on Houtz and Sedlak (2012) with modifications.  In all cases, extra doses of oxidant and/or extended oxidation times were used. All laboratories reported that these modifications were required to sufficiently oxidise the samples to meet the NEMP ratio test for aqueous samples (sum of [PFAA precursors] divided by sum of [Total PFAS] <5%).

For PFAS results post-oxidation, a high variability within and between participants’ results was observed. Due to the limited amount of data and the fact that each laboratory used different methodology for oxidation and analysis no significant trend was observed.

Application of the TOP assay did not fully convert the precursors to PFCAs for Laboratories 1 and 3. A test for acceptability of oxidation (per HEPA (2018) NEMP) is presented and all results passed these criteria except for S3 for Laboratory 1.

Laboratory 2 reported 6:2 FtS below the level of reporting (LOR) post-oxidation indicating complete conversion of the PFAA precursor. Noting that Laboratory 2 diluted the sample prior to oxidation reducing the organic load and perhaps improving the efficiency of the oxidation process. Sample S2, spiked with 8:2 monoPAP (a fluorotelomer precursor), show reasonable consensus post-oxidation results for PFCAs. The data suggests the majority of 8:2 monoPAP has oxidised under the TOP assay conditions to several PFCAs as was seen in the post-TOPA results.

HEPA (2018) NEMP defines a successful oxidation as the ratio of the sum of concentrations of PFAA precursors to the sum of total PFAS as less than 5%. Using their 6 times dosage of oxidant in a single incubation period (cycle), Laboratory 1 passed these criteria except for a marginal exceedance for sample S3.  Laboratory 2 diluted samples prior to oxidation and employed three oxidation cycles over three nights to achieve quality objectives.  Laboratory 3 used 6 times the dosage of oxidant and two cycles for samples S1 & S2 then increased dosage for samples S3 & S4. All laboratories reported that these modifications were required to meet the NEMP ratio test (sum of PFAA precursors to sum of PFAS). Applying the Houtz and Sedlak (2012) method without modification will have insufficient oxidant for samples with high organic content. It has been reported that samples with high organic Questions from the session:

content and/or high concentrations of PFAA precursors can consume oxidant facilitating the need for extra dosages.

In addition to the results presented above six sequential oxidant doses vs a single upfront six-times oxidant dose were investigated. There was no material difference in performance between sequential dosing and a single six-times upfront dose.  One observation that is interesting to note is the increase in PFOS across the sequential doses.  It is suggested that increasing dosage may result in an elevated alkaline environment, initiating hydrolysis of PFOSA to PFOS.  This observation is consistent with the PFOS results originally reported by the three labs.  Both labs 1 and 3 who performed higher overall dosages reported higher PFOS concentrations.  Lab 2, with a lower final (3x) dosage reported lower PFOS, and at a level consistent with the 3rd dose from the successive trials.  The results of this trial suggest either successive small doses or a single large dose are valid approaches to achieve effective oxidation of challenging matrices. Also, that high dosages may create alkaline conditions sufficient to convert precursors to PFSAs via hydrolysis rather than the expected PFCAs.  Where a significant increase in PFSAs is observed from pre- to post-TOP, sample dilution may be a considered approach to achieving equivalent oxidation at a lower dose and avoiding alkaline hydrolytic conditions, noting potential for the need to raise limits of reporting.

The results reported were used to assess laboratories’ accuracy in the measurement of PFAS before and after application of the TOP assay. The laboratories managed to comply with current NEMP parameters (with some minor exceptions) however, all laboratories were required to modify the original Houtz and Sedlak (2012) approach.  In all cases, extra cycles and/or increased reagent dosage was required to meet NEMP targets. A consensus method is not provided here, rather, advice to laboratories on how best to develop methodology and apply to environmental samples (as presented in 4.2).

The results indicated that fulfilment of quality objectives require increased oxidant dosage and/or extra oxidative cycles. The advice to laboratories developing a routine TOP assay method:

  • Choose a method that will comply with NEMP requirements for as many sample types as possible.  Increased dosages and multiple cycles are recommended.
  • If samples do not comply with the NEMP ratio test post oxidation treatment, then further oxidative treatment is required.  Another option is to dilute the sample prior to oxidation to try and reduce organic load.  Dilution can result in raising of the Limit of reporting to an extent where the results lack analytical meaning.
  • Take note of the concentrations of sulfonates pre- and post-oxidation.  In this study, PFOS & PFHxS were spiked into samples as monitoring compounds.  The sulfonates should have similar concentrations pre-oxidation compared to post-oxidation (as required under NEMP QA for equivalence of sulfonate concentrations).
  • Assess total PFAA after each oxidation cycle No change in PFAA concentrations between cycles (within measurement uncertainty) is a reasonable indicator that the oxidation process is complete and that there are no significant PFAA precursors remaining.
  • Assuming the sample does not contain >C8 PFAA precursors then C10 and >C10 acids should also have similar concentrations pre-oxidation versus post-oxidation.

Questions from the audience:

Gavin S: Can you give an explanation on how the EOF test works?  Extractable Organic Fluorine...

For a solid sample, extract the sample with solvent as per normal LC-MSMS analysis.  Use a portion of normal soil/biosolid extract and dry down in autosampler “boat” for combustion IC.  For water, either a portion of conventional solid phase extraction extract or adsorb onto activated carbon per AOX.

Emily S: You touched on organic content. Is there any value for organic content where TOPA is not appropriate? Or would this just be related to dilutions required?

We use a balance of dilution and multiple dosage until we achieve the desired performance for the assay.  In general, three to six times the published dosage covers most contingencies.  Too much dilution can raise the LOR to an impractical level.

Paul N: Is there a risk of producing more <C4 PFAAs if too many/too strong reagents are used in the TOPA?

As long as high pH is maintained, only hydroxyl radicals will be produced.  We have demonstrated that repeated or multiple dosages (hydroxide and persulfate) leave all perfluorcarboxylic acids intact. 

Danielle C: My question relates to the slide with the lab differences between S2, S3 and S4. I’m interested in the consistent and variance between S1 results between labs. i.e it seems to have a higher variance. Danielle C: consistency*

Given only three labs were involved, it is hard to infer too much about the interlab variability for each sample.  If NMI does arrange a larger study, this type of information might be achievable.

Gavin S: Hi Karl, this study covered TOPA of water samples, what about soil/biosolids/biota?

Have to walk before we run.  Certainly, TOPA study with more complex matrices will be valuable.

Andrew T: Did any lab report QA/QC relating to the TOP assay? Specifically any data that showed the performance of the digest e.g isotope reactions after digest.

The study was performed in the manner of a proficiency trial in which only the relevant sections on the result sheet were filled in.  No question on QA/QC.  My understanding is that all labs used the NEMP criterion or a variation thereof (for ALS the sum of residual fluorotelomers divided by the sum of carboxylates ~5% or less) as a measure of complete digestion.

Phil S: Karl. Thanks for a very clear presentation

Dr B: Will there be an equivalent study to develop the TOF (Total Organic Fluorine) assay and to get its LOR down to similar to that for PFAS?

The technique accessible to labs is combustion ion chromatography.  Detections of around 5 to 10 ppb are at the low end for this technique so that lower levels need sample enrichment.  Inorganic fluorine background can be an issue in these circumstances. I’m not aware of any plans for a study.  Ideally further work on TOF, EOF and AOF would be valuable.

Kali M: Is there an overall indication that increased organic matter in sample matrix affects accuracy of TOPA results (can result in overstating results?)

Rather than doing multiple dosing on an individual sample, ALS will repeat the analysis at a higher dosage (ultimately at a level sufficient to get rid of competing organic carbon) and this does not affect accuracy of the tests since the PFAA endpoints are very stable.  As part of QC, the lab would also monitory pH at the end of the process, if this remains high, this is an indication that chain shortening has not occurred.  In addition, ALS will spike with labelled PFOS and PFOA surrogates which are expected to survive the oxidation intact.

Emily S: Are there any plans to include % PFCA and PFAAs as part of the lab QC reporting

ALS is considering offering PFCA and PFSA sums as part of this assay as we believe they are more meaningful than sum of PFAS.  The ratio of the sum of fluorotelomer sulfonates to PFCAs is probably the best rule of thumb indicator of the completeness of oxidation.  This is because they are current target analytes for most labs and also because these can be produced by hydrolysis from “precursors” after the exhaustion of oxidant”.


Ventia Utility Services Pty Ltd (Ventia), in conjunction with the National Measurement Institute, Australian Laboratory Services and Eurofins Environment Testing Australia were awarded the inaugural Australasian Land and Groundwater Association (ALGA) Research and Development Grant to complete this project.

Members of the project include:

National Measurement Institute

Danny Slee Raluca Iavetz Cheryl Lim Mark Lewin


Australian Laboratory Services

Marc Centner Steven McGrath


Eurofins Environment Testing Australia (Eurofins)

Dr Bob Symons Dr Jack Thompson



Dr Annette Nolan (currently Ramboll Australia Pty Ltd) Charles Grimison


Steering Committee Members include:

Professor Jochen Mueller – University of Queensland Dr Karl Bowles –
RPS Group
Dr Euneace Teoh – Arcadis


Ventia, NMI, ALS and Eurofins would like to thank ALGA for their foresight in creating the grant and their contribution to development of the contaminated land industry in the Australia and New Zealand region.

Ventia would also like to thank the project and steering committee members for their hard work, openness and collaborative attitude in successfully completing this much needed project.

April 2019 event report by Michal Grigor
Didn't get to attend the webinar, but would love to review the presentations? Go to the ALGA online library*

* note the access to all the papers in our online library is a member only benefit, for more information or to join click here

The Other Devil You Know – Asbestos and the BRANZ Guide

Simon Hunt & Stuart Cole lead an interesting presentation on the current BRANZ guideline and how it incorporates asbestos in soil reporting.

Simon gave an overview of the key points of the BRANZ guideline and talked about the importance of an accurate conceptual site model and the risk of still finding something unexpected even with the most robust model. He also emphasised the importance of inspecting as much of the ground as possible, and testing separate geological units rather than mixing layers. A very brief demonstration of asbestos in soil sampling served as a start point for discussion of the various steps that are taken in calculating the weight / weight % asbestos in soil.

There was also discussion about how laboratories undertake qualitative testing and undertake the calculations, and discussed the dfferences in approach that can be applied while still remaining consistent with the minimum requirements of the BRANZ guidelines. He also provided feedback from discussions with various laboratories who undertake asbestos in soil testing, in particular highlighting common issues with samples that are provided to them that make it harder for them to process.

Stuart highlighted that different labs use different references for assessing the % asbestos content in various materials, and that not all of them state on their reports what these references are. The BRANZ guideline has a list of things that should be included as a minimum in a lab report, but there is quite a bit of variation between labs with regards to level of detail provided and how the results are presented. Recommendation was made that when the BRANZ guideline is updated it should include a lab report template to improve consistency and ease of interpretation.

It was noted that there is a list of problems / changes that people have raised regarding the BRANZ guideline and this can always be added to. However BRANZ will not be updating the guideline, and is in the process of passing all documentation to ALGA. The intention is for ALGA to co-ordinate the update, although currently a budget, process and timeline have not been set.

Same rules, different countries

There was some discussion of why the soil guideline values from the Western Australian Guidelines were used in the BRANZ guidelines, given how different the climate is in Western Australia compared to the majority of New Zealand.  Some attendees questioned why values based on essentially a desert climate were applied to New Zealand which is generally much more temperate. Simon advised that basing the BRANZ values on those in the WA guidelines was the most conservative option, the regulators were unwilling to consider other options, and the timeframe for preparing the guideline was very tight so there was not enough time to develop a viable alternative. Others in the room raised the difficulty of the time and expense required to develop and verify our own independent values based on NZ conditions.

Also there was discussion of why people are distrustful of asbestos laboratory reports while we are willing to take metals / hydrocarbon results at face value – if the lab is accredited then we should be able to rely on the accreditation to mean that the result is accurate. There was discussion of what the accreditation process was for asbestos in soil testing.

While there is a list of changes and problems that need fixing in the BRANZ guideline, at present it appears that there is no timeline or process for any changes to be made. The recommendation was given that the next version of the BRANZ guideline includes a template for laboratory reports, to make it easier to read and interpret comparable data.

The labs themselves also provided feedback, asking that people use the lab provided containers, not send larger sample volumes than necessary, take care with sample labelling and chain of custody documents, and not request urgent samples at short notice. They asked people to understand that large or complex samples just take longer to process, regardless of the turnaround time requested.

Presenter Name Presenter Company
Simon Hunt

EHS Support

Stuart Cole 4Sight Consulting

11 April 2019 event report by Shona Hobbs, AECOM
Didn't get to attend the event, but would love to review the presentations? Go to the ALGA online library*

* note the access to all the papers in our online library is a member only benefit, for more information or to join click here

OPEC Systems engaged by defence to install PFAS removal technology at Oakey, Qld

OPEC Systems has constructed a waste water treatment plant at the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, Queensland to remove PFAS compounds from contaminated groundwater.

The waste water treatment plant commenced operations in April 2019 and will use OPEC’s Surface Active Foam Fractionation (SAFF) technology to process up to 250,000 litres of PFAS contaminated groundwater per day. PFAS (per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are organic pollutants of concern found principally in a now discontinued formulation of fire fighting foam. SAFF technology has been methodically developed and independently tested by NATA laboratories and PFAS experts over several years. The system, which comprises a combination of treatment, water polishing and waste minimisation stages, can remediate PFAS contaminated water to below drinking water guidelines.

OPEC Systems was one of just three companies selected by the Department of Defence to build a full-scale waste water treatment plant to extract PFAS from contaminated groundwater.

“PFAS remediation technology is in its infancy worldwide, and we know there is intense global interest in what the Australian Department of Defence is doing with its PFAS remediation program,” said OPEC Systems Managing Director, Pete Murphy. SAFF technology is founded on the principles of green chemistry, to create a system which produces minimal waste with zero environmental harm. The technology leverages the natural physiochemistry of PFAS molecules to create a system which is efficient, sustainable and fast in comparison to other technologies.

The two aspects of SAFF technology that distinguish it from other approaches are the use of foam fractionation, which exploits the inherent predisposition of PFAS compounds to adhere to specifically sized micro bubbles; and the introduction of a patented vacuum extraction system, which harvests the vast majority of foaming PFAS compounds from the surface of the foam fractionator prior to applying ionic exchange polishing resins.

The technology has demonstrated it can effectively remove over 99 per cent of longer chain PFAS molecules within 2-3 minutes, with longer processing times and supplementary polishing systems allowing the restoration of PFAS contaminated water to below new Australian drinking water guidelines.

SAFF is a multi-stage process which broadly includes:

  • pre-treatment – the installation of groundwater extraction wells, adjustment of water chemistry to optimise PFAS extraction efficiencies and the removal of cross contaminants and dissolved and suspended solids;
  • a multi-stage, continuous flow, foam fractionation procedure to rapidly remove 99 per cent of target PFAS contaminants from the influent;
  • application of vacuum and solar heat processes to create a PFAS rich hyper-concentrate semi-solid;
  • use of final polishing technologies to remove the remaining estimated one per cent of PFAS in the treated water;
  • safe return of clean water to the environment following final analysis.

Waste minimisation practices are incorporated on site through each of the PFAS treatment stages to help achieve zero waste objectives. SAFF technology incorporates solar technology to drive the system efficiency, minimise waste and reduce energy consumption. SAFF is a modular and expandable technology which can continuously treat large water volumes using minimal energy or additives. It has the capability to treat systems varying in size from 500 litres per hour to 100,000 litres per hour, or more if required.

The waste water treatment plant will operate for a 30-month trial period.

For more information please contact Michelle Mahon.

Goulburn Remediation project hosts ALGA members

A group of some 40 Australasian Land and Groundwater Association (ALGA) members were afforded the opportunity to visit Jemena’s historic Goulburn gasworks remediation project, just prior to commencing full-scale remediation.

The gasworks operated between 1879 and 1970, with the historical gasworks related operations and waste disposal activities contaminating soil and groundwater at the site.

The visit included a brief site induction by the remediation contractor Enviropacific followed by presentations from Jarrod Irving (Jemena) on the history, background and approvals process for the remediation of the gasworks, as well as Richard Giles (Enviropacific) detailing how the bench-scale and field-scale trials formed the remediation methodology. The remediation will involve the ex-situ stabilisation and treatment of around 8,000 m3 of contaminated soil. Works began at the site in November 2018 with significant progress made to date, including completing the water treatment plant (capable of treating contaminated water at 3 L/s), soil treatment pad, odour control enclosure and emission control system, secant pile low permeability wall and bored piles to protect buildings of heritage significance.

Following the presentations, groups were accompanied to multiple locations across the site, including the water treatment plant, odour control enclosure as well as getting up close and personal with the Hitachi soil recycler (prior to any treatment) which will be completing the ex-situ stabilisation of the contaminated material. The tour hosts were presented with an array of challenging questions from the ALGA members, followed by some lively discussion – which rounded-out an interesting and informative day – with attendees immersing themselves in the intricacies and complexities of a large scale regional remediation project.

25 March 2019 event report by Barbara Ferry-Smith, Jemena
Didn't get to attend the event, but would love to review the presentations? Go to the ALGA online library*

* note the access to all the papers in our online library is a member only benefit, for more information or to join click here

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