The Queensland town of Oakey is tearing itself apart over its contaminated bore water, local businesses say.
The contamination, caused by chemicals used in firefighting foam at a nearby army base, has taken a significant toll on commerce and property investment.
Chamber of commerce president Andrew Langton says while the groundwater problem is serious, it’s confined to just one part of town.
“Most of the town is on town water so there would be very few people who are on bore water for drinking or washing purposes ,” Mr Langton said.
“We’ve got banks taking a blanket approach, saying they won’t lend people money.
“It’s stopping investment and it doesn’t matter where you go in Australia now, they think the town of Oakey has toxic water which is very, very unfair.”
Tracey Tierney, who runs Oakey Real Estate and has been an agent in the Darling Downs town for 20 years, agrees the contamination issue has been misrepresented.
Oakey people can’t get mortgage insurance and business is “dead”.
“The sales and enquiries have dropped and when you do get a sale through the banks aren’t lending, people aren’t getting finance because it’s considered high risk, ” she said.
“As far as rentals go, I’ve never had a vacancy rate like I’ve had.”
As well, people were panicking and were trying to sell their properties.
The Department of Defence on Monday released a 2020-page human health risk assessment relating to the chemical firefighting foams used at Oakey Army Aviation base, which contain the pollutants perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid.
Ms Tierney described a meeting between residents, defence officials and lawyers representing some affected residents on Monday night as a “bunfight”.
“Defence have to get boundaries set and identify where the contamination is and it’s only a small area,” she said.
Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio says the problem sits with the federal government and the town’s water supply is pristine.
“Those who are connected are receiving the best possible water.”