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See you in court: Katherine, NT, sues Defence

Unhappy with the response from the Federal Government over the ongoing contamination crisis, Katherine residents are now suing them.Katherine will see the Department of Defence in court.
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A class action has been formally filed against Defence over PFAS contamination of the struggling outback NT town of Katherine.

It is a key moment in the ongoing struggle with contamination of water supplies and battered property values.

Oakey in Queensland and Williamtown, NSW, have already taken similar actions.

Some residents say their properties are unsaleable and others estimate they’ve lost at least a third in value of their property nest eggs because of the contamination.

Defence has readily admitted it caused the chemical contamination from the use of toxic fire fighting foams once used at the Tindal RAAF Base adjacent to Katherine.

“Today’s action has been launched for the town of Katherine which has been devastated by the ongoing exposure to the toxic PFAS chemicals emanating from the Department of Defence base,” Shine Lawyers national special counsel Joshua Aylward said.

Blood testing has found some of the highest contamination levels in the world, according to local GP Dr P.J. Spafford.

“Our research has revealed that PFAS chemicals have been spreading from RAAF Base Tindal for decades, and continues to do so.

“The toxic chemicals amass and persist in the environment and in the human body, and the levels seen in Katherine are exceedingly high and widespread.

“Exposure to these toxic chemicals have been linked to immune dysfunction, hormonal interference, thyroid disruption and certain types of cancer.

“Many people in the community are trying to move their family out of this toxic area, but are stuck, unable to sell their property.”

Mr Aylward said for Shine Lawyers and the people of Katherine affected by PFAS, this action is about accountability and justice.

“We will vigorously prosecute this case to hold Defence accountable, and seek compensation for residents who have been exposed to this toxic chemical.”

Mayor Fay Miller interviewed on television about the town’s contaminated swimming pool, the news has spread around Australia.

Mr Aylward said Shine’s investigation revealed thousands of Katherine locals had been exposed to toxic chemicals, which have permeated land and water supplies, food sources, and bloodstreams, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

He said the action against Defence has been commenced as an open class and “so we act for all of the residents of Katherine”.

He also said Defence is expected to file its own defence within months.

Crucialfunding has already been secured for the court fight.

Shine Lawyers has the backing of litigation funder IMF Bentham Limited to fund the no win-no fee class action.

Enough Katherine people have signed up with valid claims against Defence, the litigation funder has decided.

IMF is also backing Oakey residents in Queensland who have launched their own class action against Defence over PFAS contamination.

The law firm, Dentons Lawyers, is mounting the class action at Williamtown in NSW, again backed by IMF.

A trial date of late 2019 has been set downfor class actions involvingWilliamtownandOakeywith a mediation session later this year.

How the contamination chaos evolved in Katherine: The wholetimeline.

Katherine Times

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