Federal Court of Australia hearing date set for Williamtown Red Zone residents’ class action lawsuit against Defence over PFAS contamination

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There is “reserved excitement” among residents from inside Williamtown’s PFAS Red Zone after news that a class action lawsuit against the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Defence is back on track, a spokesperson for the group says. Mediation for the matter has been scheduled for December before a Federal Court of Australia hearing under presiding judge Justice Michael Lee begins on April 1 next year. The Newcastle Herald understands about a month has been set aside for the matter to be heard. Residents launched legal action against Defence after it was revealed that toxic per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals – PFAS – had leaked from the Williamtown RAAF base and contaminated land on which about 750 homes stand. It has been more than four years since the pollution, which originates from firefighting foam, was revealed. Coalition Against PFAS president Lindsay Clout, who lives on one of the affected properties, said people who were part of the class action were buoyed by news it was progressing after disappointing delays. But he said there was a feeling of “reserved excitement” about where the situation stood. “It’s had an impact,” Mr Clout told the Newcastle Herald. RELATED CONTENT: “People will be holding down their excitement moving forward.” He questioned why another round of mediation had been set down for December when a previous attempt at mediation had failed. “It’s just gone past four years and we still haven’t got a result. People are heading towards another Christmas,” Mr Clout said. “There’s not a result until there’s a result. It has just got to happen. “People are hurting. We want a result.” The case was initially due to be heard in the Federal Court of Australia last month. But the Newcastle Herald reported in May that Justice Jayne Jagot, who had been listed to preside over the matter, had withdrawn from hearing cases – including the Williamtown class action – for the remainder of 2019. The turn of events left residents from the Red Zone devastated, Mr Clout said at the time. It came about a week after the Newcastle Herald reported that Defence had set aside $53.8 million for legal fees to fight six matters – including PFAS-related class action lawsuits brought by residents from Williamtown, Oakey in Queensland and Katherine in the Northern Territory. “We’ve been given hope a number of times,” Mr Clout said on Monday. “We are quite reserved about this, but if we don’t get a result pretty soon it’ll boil over.” While you’re with us, did you know Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news – sign up here. IN NEWS TODAY:


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