Matt and Beccara Lloyd got their dream to run a sheep farm but didn’t know it was nestled next to a toxic firefighting training site.
So when cancer cluster allegations swamped the Country Fire Authority’s Fiskville training centre in 2011, the couple got tested.
The Lloyds, their two daughters, and their sheep all tested positive for PFOS, a toxic chemical used in firefighting foam.
“It was gut-wrenching,” Mr Lloyd told a parliamentary inquiry on Monday. “That was the end of us.”
They stopped selling meat through their Field To Fridge business, and in March this year the government closed Fiskville after research showed there was a cancer cluster.
The Lloyds were originally handed a contaminated livestock notice after the PFOS tests but it was revoked without explanation a few days later.
Mr Lloyd said the CFA told them not to get lawyers and offered to buy their sheep for $350,000.
The CFA also sent media coaches to tell the family to tell journalists what a great job the authority was doing.
But once the Lloyds contacted lawyers, the CFA refused to hand over extra blood tests that had been done on them and their sheep.
“Mentally it’s ruining me,” Mr Lloyd said. “I can’t handle it. It’s cooked me.”
Mrs Lloyd said an Australian study found a high level of PFOS was 15 – she tested positive to a level of 110, Mr Lloyd reached 140, and one daughter was at 100.
“What’s going to happen to us? We don’t know,” she said.
The couple said the CFA needed to take responsibility for the toxic water that had contaminated their property.
“We believe we’re entitled to a clean farm, clean sheep, a normal life,” Mrs Lloyd said.
A spokesman for the CFA said the organisation would not provide a running commentary on the inquiry. The CFA has not yet been told when it will be called to appear.
The inquiry also heard from Diane Potter, the widow of the former CFA chief officer Brian Potter who blew the whistle on contamination at Fiskville in December 2011 after attempts to get the CFA to address it were ignored.
Mrs Potter said the CFA had rejected two compensation claims despite her late husband’s extensive history of health problems.
David Card was an 11-year-old living at Fiskville in 1991 when he had a testicle removed after finding a lump.
He had to get his other testicle removed in 2004 and has endured rounds of chemotherapy to treat his cancer.
“Something isn’t adding up about the hundreds of people who have been afflicted with the Fiskville flu,” Mr Card said to the inquiry.