Find A Document:
What is the assessment of site contamination?
The assessment of site contamination is a process incorporating a set of formal methods used for determining the nature, extent and amount of existing chemical substances either on or off-site. Then the actual or potential risk to human health or the environment, resulting from those substances, can be determined, also using formal methods.
The National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (NEPM) provides recommended methods for assessment and guidelines on the process (see below).
When should the assessment of site contamination be undertaken?
The assessment of site contamination should be undertaken whenever contamination has been identified at a site, or when there is a reasonable suspicion of site contamination arising from a current or previous activity or use of the site.
This provides a 'trigger' to initiate the recommended processes for assessment outlined in Schedule A of the site contamination NEPM.
Planning Advisory Notice 20 provides a list of potentially contaminating activities and land uses that should be used as a trigger by planning authorities and others to initiate the need for the assessment of site contamination.
Use of these triggers and following the assessment process should ensure that there is adequate protection of human health and the environment wherever site contamination has occurred.
Who can undertake the assessment of site contamination?
Site contamination assessment is a complex and specialised professional area involving a number of disciplines, and consequently should only be undertaken by environmental auditors and environmental consultants who have a range of competencies and relevant qualifications and experience.
Site contamination consultants are specifically defined in the Environment Protection Act 1993 as people who assess the existence or nature or extent of site contamination.
Site contamination auditors are also specifically defined in the Environment Protection Act 1993 as people who are accredited by the EPA. It is an offence to call yourself or another person a site contamination auditor if not accredited by the EPA.
There is a clear distinction between the roles of a site contamination auditor and a site contamination consultant or remediation consultant/contractor carrying out remediation:
- The integrity of the audit system depends on the independence and integrity of the auditor.
In South Australia, the EPA advises the use of site contamination auditors accredited by the EPA under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to:
- undertake independent reviews of the assessment and remediation of sites generally undertaken by site contamination consultants, and
- assess the suitability of a site proposed for a 'sensitive land use'.
A site contamination consultant or remediation consultant/contractor is engaged to:
- assess site contamination for a variety of reasons. Engagement of a consultant is undertaken in accordance with the terms and conditions of that company or, in some cases, to complete an agreed scope of works. The outcome of the engagement of an environmental consultant is the completion of the scope of work, or an agreed amended scope of work, and the issue of a report to the client.
Click here for details.
Remediation is the treatment, containment, removal or management of chemical substances or wastes so that they no longer represent actual or potential risk to human health or the environment, taking into account the current or intended use of the site.
The majority of remediation methods involve activities on the site, even though the treatment and disposal of materials may occur elsewhere.
Remediation may also involve activities that occur off-site. Several methods may be used on a site, particularly where remediation of contaminated groundwater is necessary.
Poorly managed remediation may result in adverse impacts on human health, property and the environment.
Methods and processes used in remediation, which can range from relatively straightforward earthmoving operations to complex technological treatment processes, may also result in adverse impacts to the environment and adjoining land occupiers, if not properly managed.
Guidance on remediation
The EPA has published Guidelines for environmental management of on-site remediation (254 KB PDF) that explain the expectations of the EPA for those who undertake remediation.
The guidelines describe in detail the environmental aspects that must be considered, and planned for, before starting a remediation project. It is anticipated that careful planning prior to remediation will result in the control of both predictable and preventable environmental impacts.
Consulting neighbours is critical
A significant issue in remediation projects, particularly remediation that occurs on large areas of land or over an extended time period, is the potential impact this may have on adjoining and adjacent land uses. This becomes a critical issue where these are 'sensitive land uses' (such as residential uses).
The EPA expects that such remediation projects will include well-designed and implemented communication and community consultation programs.
Where there is potential for adjacent land uses to be affected by the remediation project (for example by dust, noise or potential damage to property) it is necessary to ensure that the local community is informed of the nature and extent of the remediation prior to the commencement of the remediation as well as during the remediation. They must also be made aware of any issues of potential concern and measures put in place to address them.
Certain types of remediation may also require development approval and an authorisation (or licence) from the EPA.
Contact the EPA Site Contamination Branch for further information.
Last modified: 23/10/2012 02:03 pm