Erin Brockovich.
Erin Brockovich. Kevin Farmer

'Five year wait for justice': Firm celebrates PFAS agreement

THE law firm behind an Oakey PFAS contamination class action is celebrating a significant moment in a "five year-long wait for justice", after the firm and the Commonwealth of Australia reached an in-principle agreement over the case.

Shine Lawyers class actions practice leader Joshua Aylward said the result came as a relief to affected residents.  

"We're pleased to have achieved this outcome … which will help property owners to move forward with their lives," he said.

"This settlement will go some way to financially compensate them for the extensive property value losses they've experienced and for the stress which they have been under."

Shine Lawyers launched the class action against the Department of Defence on behalf of 450 people in Oakey in 2017, over allegations the use of firefighting chemicals at the Army Aviation Centre contaminated soil and groundwater, and negatively impacted land values.  

According to a statement released by Groom MP John McVeigh, the parties were still finalising the terms of the settlement.   Those terms, which are confidential, will be subject to Federal Court of Australia approval.  

The agreements reached in the three class actions also included the communities of Williamstown in New South Wales and Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Dr McVeigh said in his statement the agreement was an "important milestone on what has been a difficult journey for many people over the past few years".

"Notwithstanding this announcement, I look forward to continuing important work as chair of the parliament's PFAS Committee investigating PFAS remediation activities at Defence bases across the nation," he said.

Mr Aylward said his clients were thrilled after a "five year-long wait for justice".  

"This has been a protracted emotional and financial battle for many of our clients," he said.

"The people of Oakey … have been living in limbo for more than five years."  

The agreement comes after a Toowoomba law firm settled a claim in relation to PFAS groundwater contamination back in March last year.

Shine Lawyers ambassador Erin Brockovich, who visited Oakey and other PFAS-affected areas, said it was a "proud moment".

"I know better than most how gruelling and time-consuming class actions can be, so I want to congratulate residents for never giving up hope," she said.  

"I'm sure there were times you felt nobody was listening, but this settlement is both an acknowledgment of your struggle and a chance to turn the page on this difficult chapter in your lives."

Dr McVeigh said the Federal Government was "committed to concluding the environmental investigations into PFAS contamination".