A class action has been launched on behalf of the Northern Territory town of Katherine over residents' exposure to toxic chemicals used in firefighting foam at RAAF base Tindal.
Joshua Aylward of Shine Lawyers said in a statement the action against the Department of Defence had been lodged on Thursday night and sought compensation for those harmed by the chemicals.
"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," he said.
Mr Aylward said their research showed that PFAS chemicals had been spreading from the Tindal base for decades.
"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."
Mr Aylward said exposure to the chemicals had 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."
Shine Lawyers would vigorously prosecute the case to hold Defence accountable, and seek compensation for residents who had been exposed to toxic chemicals, Mr Aylward said.
The federal government faces other compensation claims from families affected by groundwater contamination from firefighting foam from a number of air force bases.
The government allocated $55 million in this year's budget to a drinking water program for property owners surrounding defence bases at Tindal, Oakey in Queensland, Williamtown in NSW and Pearce in Western Australia.
The government's independent expert health panel has concluded there is limited or no evidence exposure to Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminations causes disease or increases cancer risks.
But Defence is investigating other foam alternatives to PFAS chemicals.
A new parliamentary inquiry has been set up to investigate the federal government's response to the contaminations.