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Webinar: The Distribution of PFAS in the Marine Environment & Implications for Decision Making

Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) represent a complex mixture of thousands of individual compounds with documented wide-spread legacy impact in the environment. The webinar explored challenges and learnings in assessing human health and ecological risk of PFAS in an urban marine environment with multiple industrial areas as potential PFAS sources. This session presented the results of extensive investigation of PFAS within the Brisbane River system (surface water, sediment and biota). The results highlighted the prevalence of PFAS across all media within the entire spatial extent of the investigation. The results presented include the changes in distribution of PFAS across all media, measured bioaccumulation factors for PFOS in fish, and results of TOPA analysis conducted in all media.

Key lessons learned from the study presented were:

  •  PFOS was the predominant PFAS compound bioaccumulating in aquatic food chains, likely due to inputs from historical/current urban environments.
  • The presence of PFOS from a variety of potential historical/legacy sources in environment presents challenge associated with quantifying site-specific contribution to risk from PFAS measured in the food chain.
  • PFOS impact in the environment was widespread
  • PFOS clear driver for risk for all receptors and locations
  • Toxicity for compounds other than PFOS is a key sensitivity/uncertainty. In this assessment PFOS was still the key risk driver even when using PFOS / PFOA as surrogates.
  • Understanding of the site-source and consideration of overall mass was a key for the site-specific assessment.
  • TOPA
  • Indicated that the percent of “unknown” PFAS reduced as the investigation moved away from sources areas through surface water pathways and into biota.
  • Provided a line of evidence for identifying areas of PFAS impact with different sources.
  • Limitations in using TOPA include cost, longer turnaround times that caused project delays, and challenges in the quality control review of TOPA results across multiple matrices.
  • Conducting TOPA on every sample was not necessary for the study and if conducting TOPA it is worthwhile to focus on key focus areas for risk assessment or remediation deceision-making.
  • Biota Sampling
  • Very challenging (time and costs) to get data from target species.
  • Results from the adjacent marine environment with multiple PFAS sources does not provide clear understanding of site-related risks.
  • Bioaccumulation

The results of this investigation represent a single data set for marine environment, however this data adds to the growing data set and reduces the uncertainty associated with using BAFs to estimate PFAS concentrations in aquatic biota.

Ken Kiefer is a Technical Director and the Global Risk Assessment Technical Community leader at ERM. Ken has over 20 years of experience in the human health and ecological risk assessments for complex sites with multiple regulatory stakeholders in the U.S. and Australia. 

Ken has conducted PFAS risk assessments for a variety of Defence, Oil and Gas, and Aviation sites over the last 6 years in Australia. He can be contacted here

ALGA “BossLady” send-off event - The Kittyhawk, Sydney

Elisabethe Dank, ALGA's CEO also affectionately known as The BossLady or The Elisabethe, was the guest of honour at her goodbye party, held at The Kittyhawk in Sydney on the 21st June 2019.

The evening was a bittersweet event for many in attendance, as Elisabethe has been with the Association since 2008, and has been instrumental in achieving the level of success it currently enjoys.

We have compiled the evening speeches for your enjoyment, in an attemt to capture the spirit of the event:


Craig Cowpers speech:

"Welcome to Elisabethe’s farewell party! I am the current chair of the ALGA board of directors and the MC for the formal proceedings of tonight. Tonight is not really a farewell, but a celebration of more than 10 years at the helm of ALGA..

The association has become a real family for many of us. The team in the Robertson office led by Elisabethe, truly behave like a family ... and for good reason.

I’ve seen Elisabethe’s husband, her sister, her aunty, her uncle and her kids all pitching in for ALGA over the years ... … and there’s been another sister, a father, a mother and a sister in law … nepotism is strong in the NSW southern highlands!!" 

Anyway, in conclusion I would like to thank the "BossLady" for all her initiatives over the years, and wish her all the very best for her future!"


Peter Nadebaum's speech:

ALGA has had a long history with Elisabethe and her family. Quitz Pty Ltd (Margaret Bates (Elisabethe's aunt), David Bates and Rosalind Vrettas) were instrumental in starting up ALGA back in June 2007 – 12 years ago by providing the seed funding to start up ALGA. Rosalind acted as our Secretariat.

And then, August 2008, Elisabethe was engaged to assist, and we formally engaged her as our Secretariat. I located her first employment contract – you may be interested to know, the first thing that she was primarily responsible for was: answering the telephone and responding to the fax machine. Also, financial and event organisation. One of our key activities was to contribute to EcoForum conferences – which at that time was set up as a conference of peak environmental bodies – Water, Environment, Air and Land and Groundwater, and Waste, by Quitz Pty Ltd.

In these first years it was a benign dictatorship – we did what we could ourselves – and made it all up.

Then Elisabethe took over – a far better outcome! Elisabethe had great skills in organisation of the Association and its events, and financial matters. It was at this time under her management we commenced our steady upwards growth in members, events and finances – to now where we have more than 2100 members.  Most importantly, she could placate and jolly along all the diverse personalities in our membership – not to mention the diverse personalities of our Board of Directors. There were a series of new Boards that Elisabethe had to deal with – our Board members might have thought they were providing direction to the Association, but I think Elisabethe was the one really calling the shots – as she is cleverly able to do.

So here we are – close to 11 years later with continuous growth as the Association, continuous evolution of the Industry – and I think – continuing evolution of Elisabethe herself.

The other notable thing that Elisabethe has put together is a superb and capable team - who run the day to day activities – the conferences and branch meetings. So Elisabethe has set us up to continue the evolution of our Association – there is no shortage of opportunities, and I think we will all be surprised if we were able to look forward another 10 years. It would be remiss of me to not remind you of our mission: for Australia to lead the world in the sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater. And we are deadly serious in this – it is not motherhood – I believe it is possible and this is what we are setting out to do.

And so – we have to thank Elisabethe for guiding us along our path and equipping us to successfully complete our mission.

We owe a great debt to Elisabethe – thanks Elisabethe!"


John Hunt’s speech

"Hello Everyone.

I’m sorry that I cannot attend this important event in ALGA’s history of ALGA. I have been travelling and returned with a virus that has gone to my voice. So, I though it better to put some words into writing and spare you the virus.

I have been asked to briefly say a few words about Elisabethe, which is difficult given the occasion and the depth of Elisabethe’ contribution to ALGA. I believe that the first time I met Elisabethe was at one of the Ecoforum conferences organised by her father David. Hello David if you are present. Dad and mum certainly have a daughter to be proud of. Even at that early stage it was obvious that Elisabethe knew the ropes of conference organisation and had the organisational skills and style of someone who could breathe life into the dream that was ALGA. One thing lead to another and it was no surprise when Elisabethe was subsequently hired to create something out of nothing – well out of the good ideas and plans of a senior member of the industry now holding the microphone. Over the next few years as we developed the branches, myself and the other forum organisers were always pleasantly surprise by how easy it was, how smoothly things ran, with the growing and talented team that Elisabethe put together to service the association. This resulted it the continued growth and engagement of the association with the industry that still shown no signs of slowing down. It was in organising the Ecoforum conference that Elisabeth really stood out. The venues were carefully chosen, the attention to detail was legendary, the program ran like clockwork and the dinners were to die for. All we technical folk had to do was find and herd the cats - I mean organise the speakers. I particularly remember the Ecoforum Conference at the Jupiter’s on the Gold Coast when I was President. To my great surprise we were met at the airport by a limousine and appropriately attired driver and shown to the president suite.

But enough. I understand that people need ongoing challenges to grow professionally and Elisabethe has decided to take one on, not too far from us. She has created and nurtured a very professional, enthusiastic and committed team to service ALGA going forward. All that remains is for us to thank her for the tremendous job she has done as ALGA’s founding telephone answerer and CEO, all to wish her, John and family every success in the future."


Ian Brookman’s telegram:


















Karoline & Shardai’s speeches (on behalf of ALGA Staff):

Elisabethe, you will never truly know how many lives you changed during your time at ALGA. Thank you for the opportunity you have given us. For how you have created a part of an industry that feels like a family. We can honestly say on behalf of all the ALGA staff that you are the best boss lady that we could’ve ever had!  We know you’re a tight ass. We’ve all had to take stamps off used envelopes to save a dollar. We’ve cut every corner and DIY’d everything we possibly could......including our office. However, we know every effort you made was for the good, and you have never taken for granted the kindness of our industry. 

We are going to miss you sooooo much and wish you the very best on this adventure ahead, however we would also publicly like to state that ‘Pete and are both dead to us’ hahaha jokes. On that note, we have bought a little something to show you our appreciation.
By the way, you actually left a few things behind in the office. We just wanted to make sure that there’s nothing missing...... 

All jokes aside, we love you, have a great night & we will miss you boss lady!


Jon Miller’s speech:

"There will be many kind words spoken about Elisabethe tonight but the point I would like to highlight is that the success of ALGA is in large part as a result of her embracing people with a bee in their bonnet.

From personal experience I can well remember back in 2007 and 2008 calling Elisabethe and ranting about this issue or that and while she could have simply told me shut up and go away, she said, “Well Mr Miller you have two choices. You can either keep ranting or you can get involved with ALGA and try to bring about some change”. As many others have done, I chose the latter although I was grateful for the therapy sessions during my rants. Incidentally, this doesn’t mean I have stopped ranting and if anybody would like to buy me a whiskey and form an orderly queue up the back of this room, I will gladly share my latest.  As many of you will know, under the constitution members of ALGA are not able to receive a financial benefit and so as an employee, Elisabethe is not a member of ALGA. Now the last board meeting finished at 2.00 this afternoon which brought to a close Elisabethe’s employment, so having been free for 5 hours it is high time that Elisabethe became a member - you are not going to get away that easily. However, I think Elisabethe will be the first and most likely the only person to ever make the transition from non-member to Honorary Life Member of ALGA in one step.

So, it is my privilege to hand Elisabethe this award for her contribution to the Contaminated Land Industry and to welcome her to the ALGA family. Congratulations!'


After this, Tina Girard and Dru Marsh from ALGA's Board of Directors presented Elisabethe with some lovely parting gifts, one of which was particularly memorable: A plaque proclaiming Elisabethe as an Honourary Life Member!
Elisabethe's speech:

"Firstly, I need to sit down as I am feeling a little faint!

For me ALGA has truly become a part of my family - you just need to ask my daughters the youngest of whom is 11. For her, she can never remember a time when Mummy wasn't wotking for ALGA!  The 3 of them were really unhappy that they could not be a part of tonight... 

It goes without saying that the office team are awesome! Thank you for making my job easier and more enjoyable. We have all grown together on this journey so much and have become workmates - and friends.

As to the Board of Directors, thank you for the beautiful presents and all your support, the Association will just grow and grow with strong leadership.

Lastly to the Members: The success of ALGA is really due to you - whether volunteering in formal positions, providing funds to support an endeavour or simply jumping in whenever is this that has continued to feed my energy and drive over the years. I hope you all know that in one way or another you have had an impact on my personal growth over the last decade, so thank you – without you ALGA is nothing!

Thank you all again for such a lovely evening, I couldn't imagine it better than this.. All the best to you all on your own paths, I wish all the best for all of you - goodbye!"

This was the point were there were a few tears.. So it seems although she is gone as the CEO, since she is now a Life Member, ALGA has not heard the last of Elisabethe Dank!


The evening's photos are here.

Lama Lama for the long-term

As a movement, EWB Australia has collectively committed to addressing the deep inequalities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people –at EWB Australia, they call this their ‘Engineering on Country’ commitment.

Key to their work on Country is developing trusted partnerships with local communities and implementation partners who can meaningfully contribute and create truly impactful change.

EWB Australia’s relationship with the Lama Lama community in Far North Queensland is now ten years strong, and showcases the power of local partnerships and pro bono engineering, with appropriate technology and a strengths-based approach front-of-mind. Having successfully completed a project that now delivers a clean, reliable and energy-sustainable water supply, EWB Australia is about to embark on the next chapter to further the aspirations of the Lama Lama community.

The Lama Lama people are the traditional owners for lands extending several hundred kilometres - from the plains at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, to the breathtaking coastline of Cape York Peninsula, through to the islands north of pristine Princess Charlotte Bay.

Cyclone Larry’s 2006 landfall destroyed the original clean water access, and the community could only extract untreated water from the Port Stewart River via a diesel pump. This was hugely problematic. Each year during the dry season, as water levels fell below the bed sand, an improvised pond was excavated in the river bed to ensure water could continue to be pumped. This arrangement was prone to contamination, and presented risks to the safety and reliability of water supply, and the health of the community.

After struggling with water issues for nearly a decade, and with numerous stop-starts and visits by experts who presented reports (but little action), the local Yintingga Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) and the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CfAT) reached out to EWB Australia to help coordinate a solution. Enter Arup, a firm of engineering specialists with a social value focus, who offered critical pro-bono water engineering expertise. It created a truly collaborative ‘dream team’ to affect real change.

Designing for such an isolated community presented a variety of challenges and required innovative thinking. With extreme weather conditions in the region, the design had to be resilient against bushfires, extreme heat, cyclones and flooding, as well as remain accessible during the wet season when the river floods and crocodiles inhabited the river. Other local constraints included a lack of access to electricity, and as future maintenance was to be undertaken by the local residents, the design needed to be suitable for a non-technical community.

Priyani Madan, Water Engineer from Arup, was the Lead on the project. In assessing the best options, Priyani sought advice from expert engineers at Arup, as well as undertook her own research, consulting with other remote Indigenous community water supply operators.

“Finding an appropriate technology was my biggest challenge. It’s astounding this small project has taught me how different engineering and appropriate technology engineering are. They have similar principles and technologies, but appropriate technology has so many more constraints and so much more to think about,” says Priyani.

The final design was constructed in 2017, comprised a new non-vertical bore intake abstracting water from below the bed sands of the Port Stewart river - utilising solar powered and submersible bore pumps with a backup diesel generator. A low maintenance aeration filtration system was incorporated to remove the high iron concentrations and interconnections with the existing elevated reservoirs and distribution system.

Leveraging close to $500,000 of funds and pro-bono engineering support, a robust, sustainable, fully costed long term solution was delivered. It’s cyclone-proof credentials have since been tested - surviving two cyclones, and a wet season that saw unprecedented flooding, something not seen in decades.

“We now have…. something everyone else in Australia takes for granted - a reliable water supply,” says Gavin Bassani, Operations Manager of the Yintingga Aboriginal Corporation.

Our partnership with the Lama Lama community continues. Under the Aboriginal Land Act, the Lama Lama people have been granted freehold title over almost all of their traditional lands, and now has one of the most successful and longest running Indigenous Ranger Programs on Cape York. The program, which engages young Indigenous trainees, is grounded in a profound love of country and a deep sense of satisfaction to be finally back on their homelands, restoring land that has been home to Lama Lama ancestors for tens of thousands of years. It has resulted in the creation of meaningful employment and life satisfaction. The well-being of families and health outcomes have been improved.

The aspiration of the Lama Lama community is a future of progress, continued planning and development, and a brand new project is now under development to further this aim.

EWB Australia’s next focus will be to further assist with a range of remote infrastructure needs, including campgrounds, renewable energy supply and airstrip designs - key elements in the community’s vision to become Australia’s first solely Indigenous-run National Park.

EWB Australia’s continues to focus on their commitment to Engineering On Country. Support EWB Australia’s commitment at

If you are interested in offering pro bono support for EWB Australia projects, please contact

Report by :

Llawela Forrest
Communications Manager
Engineers Without Borders Australia
Mobile: +61 (0)400 586 991

EPA Victoria’s Information Night Moving Forwards Towards 2020

EPA provided a contamination-focussed review of recent work and upcoming legal changes, including reform to the Victorian Environment Protection Act, which commences in July 2020.

Dr Paula Sardina presented on emerging contaminants in Victoria’s aquatic ecosystems to provide a picture of EPA’s perspective on surface and ground water contamination following a recent EPA-led investigation into the presence and distribution of high-risk contaminants in Victoria’s aquatic ecosystems.  The investigation collected water, sediment and soil samples from undeveloped land, agricultural land and urban land in 5 activity centres (Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat and the La Trobe Valley) and assessed this for pesticides, PFAS, phthalates and SCCPs. 19 high risk chemicals were identified. PFAS was reported occurring in all land uses. EPA is now starting the second phase of the project to collect more data, which will include sampling for more analytes such as microplastics. EPA is preparing a publication that will have the main findings of the project, due for release in July 2019.

Dr Dru Marsh provided an authoritative briefing on the overarching “General Environmental Duty” which will be a fundamental part of the new legislation. It will have general application and so be relevant to all organisations, whether consultants, drillers or other remediation practitioners working on sites.

The regulatory regime is moving from a prohibitive regime based on outcomes, to a preventative regime based on managing hazards.  The focus of EPA will be on the steps that entities should have taken to prevent harm and this will enable EPA intervene at an earlier time to educate the community and enforce the law.

Several important concepts of the new General Environmental Duty were discussed, including the need to minimise environmental hazard to the extent practicable. In determining what is reasonably practicable, five matters will be taken into account in the new regime, which include the likelihood and degree of harm occurring, the state of knowledge (what the duty holder knew or ought to reasonably have known about the risk), the availability and suitability of control measures and cost. The existing regulations and SEPPs (to the extent that they provide a means of managing risk) will continue to be influential in determining “state of knowledge”, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the commencement of the Act.

Dru also outlined the new mandatory pollution incident notification obligations which will apply from 1 July 2020.  It was noted that “pollution incidents” are defined broadly under the new legislation and the key question when considering reporting is whether the nature of the incident is such that it will give rise to material environmental harm.  There is also going to be a new duty to respond to environmental harm caused by a pollution incident.

Anne Northway spoke about specific duties for managing contaminated land, including the new duty to notify of contaminated land.  EPA has reviewed the legislation from NSW in developing its threshold for notification of contaminated land (contamination likely to cost more than $50,000 to remediate). When making notifications it will be important for duty holders to demonstrate that they have a plan for managing contamination.

EPA is also introducing a “Preliminary risk screen assessment” (PRS) as an alternative to an environmental audit, and may be appropriate for sites that do not require a full audit.  EPA and DELWP have been trialing a PRS Pilot with several councils including Whittlesea, Greater Bendigo and Brimbank and VicRoads.  Changes to the audit system were also debated, and Anne Northway provided a brief overview of Site Management Plans and Better Environment Plans, two new measures designed to better enable EPA to ensure environmental compliance.

The General Environmental Duty is a significant change for Victorian legislation and state of knowledge is a key aspect of compliance with the duty. It will be very important for the regulated community to understand what information is available about risk controls generally (such as through industry guidance and publications) as well as being aware of site-specific controls and site history.

Some of the changes to the audit system and the alternate use of preliminary risk screen processes were discussed.  The legislation doesn’t currently dictate whether PRS must be done by a consultant or an auditor and part of the purpose of the pilot is to understand which way works best.  There remains some uncertainty over how the PRS and audit system will work in practice.

  • The regulations under the new Environment Protection Act 2017 (as amended by Environment Protection (Amendment) Act 2018) are now expected to be released for comment by EPA in draft in late July or early August.
  • Anyone wishing to obtain more information about the regulatory reform can do so by contacting EPA
  • EPA is also proposing to publish a new Compliance and Enforcement Policy prior to the commencement of the new regime.


Presenter Name Presenter Company

Dru Marsh


Paula Sardina


Anne Northway


19 June 2019 VIC event report by Gabrielle Guthrie, Guthrie Legal
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

Assessing Potentially Contaminated Land in Victoria: Pilot of New Process Enters Stage Two

Wide-ranging reforms to better integrate planning and environmental regulation, policy and management of legacy contamination are under way in Victoria, including the development of consistent and proportionate assessments of contaminated land, due to come into effect on 1 July 2020.

The Victorian Government passed legislation in 2018 embracing a new approach to environmental issues — focusing on preventing pollution impacts rather than managing those impacts after they have occurred. The legislation makes a number of significant changes to the management of contaminated land, notably the introduction of the general environmental duty, the duty to manage contaminated land, the duty to notify the EPA of contamination, and a new risk-based audit framework.

Under Victoria’s current laws, an environmental audit of all segments of the environment is required when land is proposed to be used for a sensitive use for the first time. Examples include rezoning to allow for sensitive uses, or where an Environmental Audit Overlay (EAO) exists and a planning application is made to use the site for a more sensitive use. Sensitive uses include residences, childcare centres and primary schools.

This requirement for a full environmental audit involves a detailed one-size-fits-all investigation and often results in unnecessary costs for low-risk sites. This can result in land sitting unassessed and unused, or full audits being circumvented when land is developed – both circumstances leave contaminated sites inappropriately managed. The changes to the environmental audit framework in Victoria will see a more rigorous and proportionate approach for assessing potentially contaminated land.

A new risk-based environmental audit framework is established as follows:

  • Preliminary Risk Screen (PRS) assessment: a proportionate, risk-based assessment based on a desktop study and site inspection, which may include sampling; a PRS will determine if an environmental audit is necessary and, if so, the scope.
  • Scoped environmental audit: to assess and manage the risks of harm to human health and the environment from contamination or industrial activities; scoped audits will be more cost effective due to the ability to limit the focus to specific elements or areas.

Along with this new contaminated land framework, many other services, systems and processes are being transformed as part of the biggest change in the history of the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA).

Under the new framework, both the PRS and an appropriately scoped environmental audit will be signed off by EPA-appointed environmental auditors. For sites with a low potential risk of contamination, the PRS may provide an early exit point from the environmental audit system, or alternatively provide for an audit of reduced scope, saving landowners and planning authorities time and money. Like environmental audits, PRS Statements and Reports will be publicly available documents. 

The PRS pilot

Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and EPA are currently undertaking a pilot of the PRS in partnership with councils and state government agencies.

Conducted over 18 months (April 2018 to September 2019) the pilot is trialling the PRS process through assessments completed in accordance with draft PRS Auditor Guidelines on several government-owned sites.

The pilot is working to:

  • understand how the PRS can be used in line with its legislative intent
  • confirm that the PRS consistently assesses human health and environmental risk
  • test whether the PRS and its outputs meet the needs of users
  • explore whether the PRS is likely to deliver its expected benefits.

The PRS pilot is testing different models and scenarios to understand the full range of costs and benefits the PRS might bring, and to further refine the draft PRS Auditor Guidelines, with input from pilot auditors. One model that is being trialled is using environmental consultants to complete a preliminary site investigation (PSI), which is then reviewed by an environmental auditor to produce a PRS Statement and Report, like the current Victorian environmental audit system.

The pilot is being independently evaluated, including feedback from auditors, DELWP and EPA staff, councils and other partners. Interim evaluation findings included the need to tighten guidance material to support greater consistency in interpretation and implementation by auditors.

The pilot will allow the EPA to optimise the implementation of the PRS once the legislation takes effect on 1 July 2020. For more information email the PRS Pilot Team

Image: DELWP - Creative Commons BY 4.0, – further license information can be found here

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