PFAS deal ends NSW community's long battle

Residents near the Williamtown RAAF base are shocked the Commonwealth is settling a PFAS legal case.
Residents near the Williamtown RAAF base are shocked the Commonwealth is settling a PFAS legal case.

Tears, relief, shock - residents living near the Williamtown RAAF base in the NSW Hunter region have run the gamut of emotions after a settlement was reached over groundwater contamination caused by toxic firefighting chemicals.

About 400 residents in Williamtown, north of Newcastle, launched a class action against the Department of Defence in 2016 after PFAS chemicals contaminated soil and water in the area.

PFAS was once used in firefighting foam at the Williamtown RAAF base.

Williamtown residents, who were the first to launch the Federal Court class action, say their livelihoods and property values have been severely affected since toxic chemicals leached into ground and surface water.

Residents in Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory launched their own claims soon afterwards.

The federal government on Wednesday said an in-principle agreement had been reached and a confidential settlement was being finalised for the three Federal Court class actions.

Williamtown resident Lindsay Clout says it's been a long battle.

"People are really feeling comfortable again today," he told AAP on Thursday.

"There have been some tears of relief shed this morning by local residents."

The Coalition Against PFAS president added while the settlement was welcome it didn't change what the community had been through.

"We were continually told we were unimportant and what happened to us was the way it was going to be," he said.

"We were polluted and our property values were destroyed."

Mr Clout called on the government to adopt the recommendations from the second parliamentary inquiry into PFAS contamination and to undergo a complete clean- up of the contamination in Williamtown.

Port Stephens NSW MP Kate Washington said the news has been met with relief and some shock.

"I'm hopeful it will mean the residents can start healing and that the heartbreak may end," she told AAP on Thursday.

The Labor MP referred to the "extraordinary impact" the contamination scandal has had on Williamtown residents for more than four years.

"The experience will never be forgotten," she said.

"If there's money involved in this, that's not going to mean it's over for these families."

The opposition environment spokeswoman hoped the Commonwealth will now take responsibility for its actions.

Australian Associated Press