Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Oakey Suit Seeks $200M in Compo Contamination Lawsuit a 'Definitive' Step

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

Oakey Suit Seeks $200M in Compo Contamination Lawsuit a 'Definitive' Step

Article excerpt

Byline: Tara Miko tara.miko@thechronicle.com.au

OAKEY residents living with contaminated groundwater supplies have filed a class action suit against the Commonwealth seeking an estimated $200 million in compensation.

More than 450 residents in the town signed up to the action led by Shine Lawyers in a step they say they never wanted to take.

The lawsuit, filed in the Federal Court yesterday, seeks compensation for damages after residents and the Department of Defence failed to reach a settlement over the past three years.

For residents such as lead plaintiff Brad Hudson, who has lived in the town for 33 years and brought up three children on contaminated land, the lawsuit is a final step towards starting over.

"I don't think my children, as being Australian kids, deserve to have to put up with chemicals caused by the Australian Government," Mr Hudson said.

"We've asked for a relocation thousands of times; it just falls on deaf ears.

"The banks don't want to touch me. I just can't walk off my property now and go get another property."

Mr Hudson's property is about 400m from the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, the base on which firefighting foam was used for decades before the Department of Defence alerted residents to the groundwater contamination in 2014.

Having used bore water for more than 15 years on the property, initially valued at about $700,000, Mr Hudson was told to limit his exposure to the water where possible.

Tests revealed Mr Hudson, his wife and three children aged six to 19 have elevated readings of PFOS and PFOA chemicals in their blood.

Shine Lawyers special counsel Peter Shannon said the 70-odd page class action was filed with "considerable reluctance", but maintained residents would be open to a settlement outside of the court process.

"We'll be seeking damages for compensation, that is the financial loss suffered by our clients," Mr Shannon said.

"The amount of that, I can't specify at the moment because it is actually expert evidence that determines that. …

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