Fire Rescue Victoria wins Banksia National Sustainability Award for world leading PFAS mitigation

Friday, 24 March 2023 at 5:00 am

Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) has been awarded the 34th National Banksia Sustainability Awards, Health and Wellbeing Award, for its ground-breaking PFAS mitigation strategies and advocacy work around the globe.

FRV is leading the world in not only advocating for a global ban on the use of harmful per- and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in fire and rescue services, but offering innovative solutions that protect firefighters, community members and the environment from these chemicals.

There is a lack of scientific research to determine what levels of PFAS in the human body are safe, and prior to a world-first clinical trial led by FRV in 2019, there was no known way to reduce PFAS levels in the body.

With no guidelines or examples of PFAS-free models globally, FRV PFAS elimination efforts required reimagining what the firefighting industry, and the world, would look like without this group of chemicals.

This award follows decades of advocacy work and the successful remediation of Corio fire station, with the treatment applied at this site resulting in reductions in PFAS concentration in surface and water runoff, bringing PFAS levels at the site to below the ecological screening criteria.

FRV continues to raise awareness about mitigation initiatives and advocates for PFAS minimisation, having presented our findings to state and federal governments, the 2022 United Nations Stockholm Convention, and the International Firefighter Cancer Symposium in Miami, Florida, in February 2023.

We are seeing the benefits of collaborating with other agencies in the firefighting industry, with changes to process and policy being made in South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and amongst the Canadian Defence Force.

FRV continues to call on the Federal Government to issue a national ban on PFAS-containing firefighting foams and showcase the viable alternatives that FRV has identified.

Fire Rescue Victoria Assistant Chief Fire Officer Mick Tisbury, who leads the PFAS team, said it was an honour to receive the award.

“It’s been a long journey advocating for the elimination of PFAS chemicals with no blueprint to work from,” ACFO Tisbury said.

“With the success of Corio fire station, we can see that FRV mitigation strategies are scalable and can be effectively expanded to other fire services across Australia and internationally.”

Acting Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman said the award was a testament to FRV’s commitment to improving the health of firefighters and reducing PFAS contamination within the community and environment.

“Our PFAS team has advocated for many years on PFAS minimisation in fire and rescue services and I’m immensely proud to see them being recognised for their efforts.”

The 34th National Banksia Sustainability Awards are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and celebrate Australians that create opportunities for excellence through powerful social and environmental impacts through their work within the community and their business practices.