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NT govt warns against contaminated seafood

AAP logoAAP 4/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Territorians are being urged not to eat seafood from two Darwin creeks near a defence base, after toxic chemicals were found in shellfish.

The Defence department is under fire for secrecy relating to contamination testing in Top End waterways after firefighting foams leeched into ground and surface water near RAAF sites.

The federal government has already offered alternative drinking water to Katherine landowners while it tests their properties for pollutants from the nearby Tindal RAAF base, as well as the RAAF Base and Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

The NT government on Friday confirmed chemical runoff from historical use of the foam at Darwin's airport and defence base was detected in the Rapid and Ludmilla creeks after water samples were taken in February.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles said pollutants were found in sediments and some shellfish, including long bums and periwinkles, but at low levels.

"We ask that people don't eat fish, crabs and prawns in these creeks until further testing is complete," Ms Fyles said.

A preliminary sampling program has been undertaken at 12 defence sites across Australia, including bases in Victoria, Queensland and NSW.

More than 400 residents north of Newcastle launched a class action against the Defence Department on Thursday, claiming their livelihoods and property values had been severely affected.

The federal government's investigation into Katherine's waterways began in June and while the report has already been given to the NT government, it's yet to be made public.

Ms Fyles and NT Opposition Leader Gary Higgins have called on the Defence Department to release the findings immediately.

Mr Higgins wants the investigation to be expanded to make sure contamination hasn't spread to the aquifers that feed into the Daly River.

"So it's not just around Katherine that can be affected, it's then all of the people down stream," he said.

"We saw decreases in land values in NSW once this became public over there and I'd hate to see it happen here."

Federal Labor MP Warren Snowdon has slammed the Defence Department for keeping Katherine residents in the dark over how long their land has been contaminated.

He's called for testing of locally-grown produce in the region.

"People are going to consume (fruit and vegetables), and clearly there's an issue about what is safe and what is not safe," he told ABC local radio.

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