NT govt handballs Katherine blood testing
The Northern Territory government has deflected calls for free blood tests of Katherine residents concerned about contamination of the town's water supply, and is lobbying the Commonwealth instead.
The demands come amid local outrage following the Defence department's admission to ABC's Four Corners that there's been misuse of toxic firefighting foam on army sites for decades.
Up to 18 bases around Australia are being investigated in relation to chemical pollutants that can leach into groundwater, including the RAAF Tindal site close to Katherine.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner reassured locals that Labor "is doing everything we can to support them" but said Defence must be held accountable to fix the legacy issue.
Mr Gunner says he's written to the Coalition multiple times asking for Katherine residents to be given access to tests, counselling and inclusion in the national epidemiology study.
"We see no need to wait for the conclusion of the Defence environmental investigation," Mr Gunner said.
"I implore the NT opposition to ask their federal counterpart Nigel Scullion - who has a direct line to the Defence minister - to do what is right by the residents of Katherine."
The federal government is providing alternative drinking water to about 50 local homes and Katherine has water restrictions in place ahead of the instalment of a treatment plant later this year.
Even the public pool was closed last week after the water was found to contain 15 times the safe level of contaminants, and locals are keen to launch a class action for compensation.
Country Liberals Party deputy leader Lia Finocchiaro says Katherine residents are right to be concerned.
"The very clear message out of Katherine is that residents want to be tested and government should act on this," she said.
"The Northern Territory Department of Health has the capacity to conduct tests and the costs can be passed on to the Department of Defence."
Defence has taken samples of soil, animals and surface and groundwater in the region and the results will be released early next year.
IMAGE/ABC NEWS SALLY BROOKS