Concerned Oakey residents attend a public information session last week to learn how badly contaminated the town's bore water supply has become.
Concerned Oakey residents attend a public information session last week to learn how badly contaminated the town's bore water supply has become. Kevin Farmer

Class action brews over town's poisoned water

A TOOWOOMBA law firm is considering a class action against the Department of Defence over its use of toxic firefighting foam in Oakey over 35 years.

Shine Lawyers partner Peter Shannon will meet with residents tomorrow to discuss the fall-out of contaminated groundwater and determine whether legal action is necessary.

"It's early days, and it may be that Defence can clean it up so no damage is suffered," Mr Shannon said.

"However, at this stage, all indicators are that it will be some significant time until the use of bore water in Oakey will be available again."

>> Oakey's poison foam coated runway

>> Defence says it will keep Oakey in loop

Residents within a growing area of contamination have been told not to drink bore water under any circumstances.

Several have no access to town water and are waiting to see what other options Defence will provide.

Land values are expected to drop considerably.

Shine Lawyers partner Peter Shannon speaks at the Department of Defence’s water contamination meeting in Oakey last week.
Shine Lawyers partner Peter Shannon speaks at the Department of Defence’s water contamination meeting in Oakey last week. Kevin Farmer

Mr Shannon said a class action would only go ahead if residents were not kept properly informed or compensated by Defence.

"Class actions have this aura about them that is generally viewed as negatively as possible by insurance companies and large organisations," he said.

"But if you're a single landholder in Oakey and you've suffered, let's say, health issues or land value issues, your claim might be worth $50,000 to $60,000.

"If the only way to prove that is to get toxicologists, chemists and other experts involved, the outlay may be more than to establish the claim.

"If 100 people are sharing those costs and sharing information and energy, it gives you a far better standing and adds clout and impetus to get just outcomes."

Mr Shannon said Defence should be given every opportunity to make good on its promises to treat affected residents fairly.

"The army has a long history of positive association with Oakey and I don't want to be prejudicing that in any way," he said.

"To me, litigation is always your last resort when you have exhausted all other avenues of reasonable redress."

Oakey residents are invited to attend the class action meeting at the Oakey Cultural Centre from 3pm on Thursday.


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