EPA tightens rules for toxic firefighting foams
Tougher restrictions on firefighting foams containing hazardous per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) come into effect in the new year.
From 1 January 2023 legacy PFAS firefighting foams cannot be used in uncontained systems to ensure foam run-off does not wash into waterways or contaminate land.
The foam can still be used in contained systems, where run-off is collected and cannot enter the environment.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has been gradually phasing out the use of legacy PFAS firefighting foams since 2020. After December 2025 they will be completely banned.
The EPA’s General Manager of Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement, Gayle Holmes, says the foams are persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. These hazardous chemicals build up and remain in the environment and in people for long periods.
“We know that firefighting foams containing PFAS can seriously contaminate land and water.
“The EPA is restricting where and when these foams can be used to better protect our environment.”
In November 2022 Channel Infrastructure NZ Limited was fined $169,000 after firefighting foam banned from use in training exercises was used multiple times at Marsden Point Oil Refinery.
The EPA laid seven charges against the company (formerly the New Zealand Refining Company Limited) under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO Act), and a further seven charges under the Resource Management Act.
The company used the foam for training exercises on seven occasions in May and June 2021.
EPA NZ, 21-12-22