Traces of ‘PFAS’ found at Gold Coast sewage treatment plant

Trace amounts of the potentially dangerous chemical PFAS have been detected in soil and groundwater samples at the Elanora Sewage Treatment Plant site.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads is understood to have detected the presence of the chemical while undertaking routine soil sampling for the widening works of the M1 from Varsity Lakes to Tugun.

City of Gold Coast has confirmed it is now working closely with The Queensland Department of Environment and Science and Queensland Health to further investigate the issue.


Council said initial investigations suggest the PFAS originated from sewage flows into the Sewage Treatment Plant from households and commercial businesses.

“Its presence does not appear to be related to any chemical products utilised at or around the Sewage Treatment Plant,” City of Gold Coast said.

The City will be conducting an environmental survey in areas adjacent to the Treatment Plant site in the coming weeks to better understand the quality and usage of local groundwater.

“We will keep the community fully informed of the investigation outcome and liaise directly with customers in adjacent areas as required,” a Gold Coast City Council spokesperson said.

Per and Poly-FluoroAlkyl Substances (PFAS) are a group of manufactured chemicals that are resistant to heat, water and oil and have been used since the 1950s.

Due to their fire retardant, waterproofing and stain resistant qualities, the chemicals were widely used in some types of fire-fighting foams and other industrial products worldwide.

According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority, PFAS can also be found in low concentrations in many consumer products like food packaging, non-stick cookware, fabric, furniture and carpet stain protection applications, clothing and shampoo.

The most common sources of PFAS in the environment is where fire-fighting foams were used for training purposes, particularly on Department of Defence bases and at fire-fighting training facilities.