Do you owe a huge payout? 30,000 Aussies will get their share of $132 million
- Government settles class action lawsuit
- $132 million must be paid for polluted water
- Blame the defense force’s fire extinguishing foam
The federal government has settled a $132.7 million class action lawsuit over a toxic fire-fighting foam that contaminated water tables at seven locations in Australia.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAS, were used to fight fires on Australian Defense Force (ADF) bases until the early 2000s.
The class action alleged that landowners were exposed to the toxic material after it leached into groundwater near bases in Wagga Wagga and Richmond in New South Wales, Wodonga in Victoria, Darwin in the Northern Territory, Townsville in Queensland, Edinburgh in South Australia and Bullsbrook in Western Australia.
The $132.7 million settlement will be divided among approximately 30,000 plaintiffs. It came after midnight ahead of the trial that was due to begin Monday in Federal Court.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that while he would leave the government’s response to the settlement to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, his main concern remained the health outcomes of the people affected by it.
Firefighters use a foam to contain a wildfire with the variant of the suppressant used by the defense which turns out to be toxix
“People in different communities have suffered from using this,” Mr Albanese said.
‘It’s another example of where we need to have health and safety at work in order.
“We have to do it right first of all to prevent this kind of action.”
The plaintiffs were represented by Shine Lawyers and Craig Allsopp, the company’s representative, said while the news was positive, the outcome has yet to be approved by the Federal Court.
“It is always a good outcome when group members reach an agreement prior to litigation to avoid the added costs and risks of complicated court litigation,” said Mr. Allsopp.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government must properly regulate health and safety at work
The settlement money, if approved, will to some extent compensate the seven communities in this class action for their losses, but many are still trapped on contaminated land.
The next step in our negotiations is to submit our agreement in principle to the Federal Court. If the proposed settlement is found to be fair and reasonable, the court will approve it.”
Despite the settlement, it should be noted that the payout is not an admission of liability.
An eighth location – Wreck Bay, in NSW – will be the subject of a separate class action on May 29, in which the complainants will also be represented by Shine Lawyers.
Foam that has entered the groundwater has led to previous huge government payments
The term PFAS encompasses about 4,700 different chemicals that do not break down, but instead accumulate in soil, water, and even in humans.
The government previously paid a $212.5 million settlement in early 2021 to residents of Katherine, Northern Territory, Oakey in QLD and Williamtown NSW, also over Defense PFAS contamination.