NZDF to test site of 1996 Skyhawk Crash

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will test an area where a Royal New Zealand Air Force Skyhawk crashed in 1996 to help the investigation of PFAS in the Bulls water supply

Specialists contracted by NZDF will test water in an area surrounding the site.

Earlier this year, at the request of the local councils, NZDF tested the town water supplies of Sanson and Bulls for PFAS compounds. While the results for Sanson were below the laboratory limit of detection, low levels of PFAS were detected in the Bulls water supply. The levels detected were well below the Ministry of Health’s interim guidance levels for drinking water.

NZDF agreed to help Rangitikei District Council and Horizons Regional Council understand where the PFAS might have come from. Part of that investigation involves testing near the site of the 1996 Skyhawk crash north of Bulls, to determine whether firefighting foam used at the site could plausibly be a source of the PFAS in the Bulls water supply.

Testing will be carried out on groundwater from existing wells adjacent to the site.

Information gained from the testing will also be valuable for the nationwide PFAS programme being led by the Ministry for Environment. This programme is seeking to understand if a one-off event, like the foam application at the site of the Skyhawk impact, could be influencing groundwater quality with regard to PFAS two decades later.

The results from these tests will be provided to landowners, statutory regional authorities and the all-of-Government group involved in the PFAS response.

NZDF’s testing programme at its Ohakea and Woodbourne air bases is ongoing, with a fourth round of testing to be carried out in spring.

Read more on the investigation & background