Changes to the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 create new offences relating to the use of fluorinated firefighting foams and the filling of fire extinguishers.
On 30 January 2018 changes to the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 (WQEPP) came into effect which banned the use of firefighting foams containing fluorinated organic compounds, which includes foams containing perfluorooctane sulfonate (C8 -PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (≤C6 -PFOA) (fluorinated firefighting foam).
Under the WQEPP changes a person:
- must not use, cause or permit the use of a fluorinated firefighting foam;
- must not fill, cause or permit the filling of a fire extinguisher with a fluorinated firefighting foam product;
- who refills, causes or permits the refilling of a fire extinguisher must ensure that, before transitioning to a fluorine-free foam product, the fire extinguisher is thoroughly cleaned to remove any residual fluorinated firefighting foam or product (as far as reasonably practicable) and must ensure that the foam or product, or any wastewater produced in the cleaning process, is collected, securely contained and disposed of to a facility, or stored in a manner, approved by the EPA; and
- must not supply a firefighting foam product unless the producer’s certification of the product’s fluorine content is displayed on the label or in a document provided with the product.
For large (90L or more) and small (90L or under) fire extinguishers there is a two year transition period to use existing fluorinated firefighting foam provided they were filled before 30 January 2018.
There is also a two year transition period for large fire extinguishers to meet the requirements relating to filling of fire extinguishers with fluorinated firefighting foam.
Whilst the use of fluorinated firefighting foams has largely been phased out in South Australia, the new offences under the WQEPP give the EPA power to prosecute any continued use of fluorinated firefighting foams in the future.