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Independent report highlights efficient and effective response to PFOS

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Thursday 11 July 2013

An independent review has concluded appropriate action has been taken to protect public health after traces of a chemical previously used in fire-fighting foam were detected in drinking water.

The review, by the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA), said 'a coordinated and efficient response to the incident' had ensured 'the best possible advice has been available to all those engaged in managing the situation, as well as providing guidance to the public and other relevant stakeholders.'

The report was commissioned by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group set up to provide public health advice after the chemical, known as PFOS, was detected in drinking water. It includes representatives of Health & Social Services, Environmental Health, Guernsey Water, and Public Services.

The Group has advised public water supplies remain safe to drink as the trace levels detected were unlikely to represent a risk to human health.

Medical Officer of Health, Dr Stephen Bridgman, who chairs the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, said the review provided an independent, expert appraisal of its action, and a review of the scientific research:

'The HPA study provides an objective appraisal of the approach taken locally to ensure appropriate information was available to all parties, including the public, based on the scientific evidence relating to PFOS'

Director of Water Services, Andrew Redhead, said Guernsey Water was continuing to monitor PFOS levels, both in St Saviour's reservoir and in the public supply.

'The UK has had a standard for PFOS in drinking water in place since 2007, which we have consistently applied here. That has ensured the trace levels present are within the limits set for wholesomeness, and therefore safe to drink, and this report endorses that'

Director of Environmental Health and Pollution Regulation, Valerie Cameron, said the Scientific and Technical Advisory Group had maintained a precautionary approach. This included advice given to anglers last year to limit their consumption of fish from St Saviour's Reservoir.

'We have adopted a cautious approach, where necessary, while Guernsey Airport took the actions required to address the source of the chemical'

As part of the essential maintenance and improvements at Guernsey Airport, soil contaminated by PFOS has been removed from a number of areas around the airfield. This is now securely sealed in the raised bund outside the airport entrance.

A similar operation is planned to remove ground from a field close to Forest Road, which was the site of a fatal plane crash in 1999.

A ground water treatment plant has also been constructed at Guernsey Airport, to prevent any residual traces of PFOS within the airfield from entering the water supply.

-ENDS-

Further information

The full report and a non-technical summary can be downloaded from www.gov.gg/pfos.

About the Health Protection Agency:-

The Health Protection Agency (www.hpa.org.uk) was set up by the UK government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards.  It provided advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. 

On 1 April 2013, the Agency became part of Public Health England, which brought together specialists from more than 70 organisations into a single public health service.

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