Skip to content
Engineering

EXPERT: toxic waterways may persist for weeks in factory fire aftermath

Monash University 2 mins read

A Monash expert says toxic levels of PFAS chemicals persisted in nearby recreational waters for two-weeks after the Footscray-Tottenham factory fire in 2018.

Chemical engineer Dr Sally El Meragawi is available to discuss the implications of the Derrimut factory fire, the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foams, and the development of filtering technologies capable of removing these ‘forever’ environmental contaminants from drinking water.

Dr Sally El Meragawi, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Contact details: +61 408 508 454 or sally.elmeragawi@monash.edu

The following can be attributed to Dr El Meragawi:

Contamination from fires at chemical storage sites can include a diverse range of substances, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), heavy metals and more. These chemicals can have serious long-term impacts on health and the environment.

“After the Footscray-Tottenham chemical factory fire in Melbourne in August 2018, levels of PFAS chemicals (PFOS and PFOA) were found to be 16 times higher than the safe recreational water quality levels downstream from the fire site for two weeks following the incident. EPA Victoria reported that contaminants like hydrocarbons, solvents (such as acetone), herbicides, and heavy metals were also detected.

“Firefighting foams are also a common source of PFAS. Despite efforts to regulate their use, these foams have not yet been phased out. Over the years, there have been numerous high-profile cases of PFAS contamination, particularly near military bases, airports, and firefighting training sites. Recently, there has been a push for stricter regulations, more research into alternative firefighting foams, and cleanup efforts at contaminated sites.

“PFAS are often called "forever chemicals" because they persist in the environment and the human body for a long time, over 35 years. They have been linked to health issues such as various cancers and thyroid diseases. Once in the environment, PFAS do not break down and can accumulate in the food chain.

“Traditional water treatment plants struggle to remove some of these smaller PFAS effectively. This is why our research team at Monash University is developing a new type of membrane designed to specifically filter out these persistent environmental contaminants from drinking water.”

For more Monash media stories visit our news and events site: monash.edu/news

For any other topics on which you may be seeking expert comment, contact the Monash University Media Unit on +61 3 9903 4840 or media@monash.edu

More from this category

  • Engineering
  • 12/07/2024
  • 15:25
Monash University

Monash Motorsport back on track in Europe this weekend

**Download raw footage of the student’s road-testing their newly constructed full electric formula-style racing car in the European rain.** Monash Motorsport – Monash’s student-run…

  • Contains:
  • Building Construction, Engineering
  • 10/07/2024
  • 13:51
GS E&C Australia

GS Engineering & Construction selected for major Suburban Rail Loop East tunnelling package in Victoria, Australia

GS Engineering & Construction (E&C) Australia, as part of the Terra Verde joint venture, has been announced as preferred bidder for the Tunnels North contract for Suburban Rail Loop (SRL) East in Melbourne, the most populous city in Australia. The package includes the design and construction of nearly 10 kilometres of two parallel tunnels and two station boxes in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. GS E&C Australia has a 33.5% stake in the project, with partnersWebuild and Bouygues Construction Australia. Commissioned by Victoria’s Suburban Rail Loop Authority, the contract involves excavation of the tunnels between GlenWaverley and Box Hill; the…

  • Engineering, Environment
  • 08/07/2024
  • 09:14
UNSW Sydney

Coastal storms: national early warning system will help us better prepare for beach erosion and flooding

The world-first coastal hazard system reduces the risks associated with Australian coastal storms. A new framework for a national early warning system (EWS) developed by UNSW engineers can forecast the beach erosion and flooding impacts of storms approaching Australia’s sandy coastlines. The coastal hazard system predicts the severity of impacts every 100 metres alongshore and at identified ‘hotspots’ – considered vulnerable or housing valuable infrastructure – in near real-time. It delivers rolling seven-day forecasts to local and regional coastal managers and emergency response agencies through a web portal. The engineers detailed their system in a research paper published recently in…

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.