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Record fine for illegal waste depot operator
A South Australian demolition and asbestos contractor has received a record fine in the Environment, Resources and Development Court for operating an illegal waste depot.
Port Adelaide Salvage SA Pty Ltd and its director Maurizio Corsaro were fined a total of $72,000 plus costs for operating illegal waste depots at two sites in the northern Adelaide Hills.
The first count related to activities at a Highbury quarry between August and November 2012.
Port Adelaide Salvage was fined $44,000 for this operation – the largest fine ever handed down in SA for an offence of this nature.
Notably, the court sentenced on the basis that the company avoided $30,000 of dumping fees through this illegal activity.
Mr Corsaro was fined another $10,000 as an individual, with the two parties sharing costs of $3850.
A second business, EM Earthmovers, had already been found guilty of operating the unlawful waste depot at the quarry and was fined more than $24,000 plus costs in August 2018.
EPA investigations estimated that between 64,000 and 137,000 m3 of construction and demolition waste had been dumped in the quarry, at the corner of Lower North East and Churchett roads.
Mr Corsaro also pled guilty to a second count of operating an illegal waste depot later at a property at Range Road South, Houghton between January and August 2015, and was fined another $18,000 plus $3350 in costs.
EPA Manager, Investigations and Tactical Support, Stephen Barry said the second offence was particularly disappointing, as Mr Corsaro was well aware of his environmental responsibilities, having already been the subject of an EPA investigation in 2012.
EPA authorised officers observed numerous tipper trucks entering and leaving the Houghton property. An estimated 1450 tonnes of waste was stockpiled at the site, including metal, construction waste and green waste.
Advice from the Country Fire Service during the Houghton investigation indicated the waste stockpile represented a significant fire risk because it was so close to native vegetation.
Mr Barry said unlicensed operations did not only pose a threat to the environment and the community.
“They also undermine the operation of legitimate waste and recycling businesses whose operators do the right thing,” he said.
Both the Highbury and Houghton sites were the subject of Environment Protection Orders, and have since been remediated at the defendants’ expense.
Environmental licence for channel dredging
The Environment Protection Authority will issue Flinders Ports with an environmental licence to govern dredging operations as it widens the Outer Harbor shipping channel.
Licence conditions are still being finalised, but will include measures to minimise the loss of seagrass and the spread of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) and the invasive pest plant Caulerpa taxifolia from the Port River.
These conditions take into account the 85 submissions we received from stakeholders and members of the public during the consultation period at the end of last year.
Before dredging can start, Flinders Ports will be required to satisfy Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) that they can reduce the risk of the spread of POMS.
Seagrass is a vital part of a healthy marine ecosystem, and minimising its loss was a major consideration in granting the licence.
Some loss of seagrass is inevitable in an operation of this nature, but the licence conditions aim to contain it to the immediate area around the channel as far as possible.
When channel dredging took place in 2005-6, turbidity in the water was a major cause of seagrass loss because the sand stirred up blocked the light to the plants.
To combat this, dredging operations will not start until autumn and will be condensed into the shortest timeframe possible.
There will also be turbidity monitoring while work is under way, with real-time alarms and stop-work triggers if the water becomes too cloudy.
Other conditions include monitoring of seagrass before, during and after dredging, and the presence of qualified marine mammal observers to prevent harm to the Port River dolphins.
Spoil from the dredging operation will be disposed of in the gulf, at the same site as was used during the last channel widening, after it was determined that land-based disposal would be too great a risk to delicate coastal ecosystems.
Read more about the environmental licensing process for the channel widening process.
Holden closure complete
The EPA made its final site inspection as part of the closure of the GMH plant at Elizabeth in late December.
GMH was one of the first manufacturing facilities in South Australia to have modern closure and post-closure conditions added to its environmental licence, and the first to surrender its licence under the EPA’s more formalised closure system.
The closure was carefully planned, with the car maker submitting formal closure and post-closure plans to the EPA in November 2016.
When the final car rolled off the production line eleven months later, implementation of the plan began.
Closure plans typically cover demolishing buildings and other infrastructure, decommissioning and decontaminating equipment, removing and disposing of waste, managing contaminated soil, monitoring and managing emissions, carrying out community engagement and how the site will be managed after it is closed.
The site has now been handed over to new owners Pelligra, who plan to turn it into a business park.
For more information on creating closure and post-closure plans, read the guideline.
Further TCE vapour testing to take place in Beverley
A new round of groundwater and vapour testing will begin this month in parts of Beverley where the aquifer is contaminated with chemicals, including trichloroethene (TCE).
The contamination is associated with Beverley’s long manufacturing history.
In the past, chemicals were often disposed of by being poured onto the ground in the belief that they would evaporate. There were also accidental spills and leaks over the years that soaked into the soil.
Because of this contamination, the EPA has been advising residents in this area since 2008 that they should not to use their bore water for any purpose.
TCE in groundwater can also result in vapours rising through the soil and entering buildings.
A number of homes in Beverley tested positive for TCE vapours inside during the last round of assessments in 2017, and three of those with higher levels have already been fitted with underfloor ventilation systems that extract the contaminated air.
Another 13 homes were found to have lower vapour concentrations, either in internal air or under their floors. They showed levels that were not considered to pose any immediate health risk, but still warranted ongoing investigation.
These properties will be retested in coming weeks, and we have recommended that they should have ventilation systems installed as a precaution.
Seasonal soil vapour testing of the EPA’s existing network of bores in the Beverley area will also take place in February and March, and there will be another opportunity for indoor air testing for residents who did not take part in 2017.
Soil in the area is not contaminated, making it safe to eat home-grown produce so long as it has not been irrigated with bore water.
Read more about the Beverley assessment area.
Licensing for petrol stations
South Australia’s 600-plus petrol station operators have recently received a notice providing information about the requirement for them to hold an EPA licence from January 2020.
The notice invites operators to provide feedback on the fee structure for petrol station licences and to indicate how they would like to be engaged in the implementation of the new requirement.
The South Australian Government recently added petrol stations to the list of activities of environmental significance that require authorisation under the Environment Protection Act 1993, in recognition of the issues caused by aging or leaking underground storage tanks.
The new requirement takes effect from January 2020, after which it will be illegal to operate a service station in SA without the appropriate licence.
The EPA has already met with industry associations and groups, and is now inviting individual operators to take part in a survey that will help inform the design and implementation of the licensing process.
Initially, the EPA will grant a licence on application to all petrol stations currently licensed under the Petroleum Products Regulation Act 1995, and will be in touch with operators in coming months with information on how to apply.
If you are a service station operator and have not yet been contacted by the EPA, or you have further questions, please contact Tobias Hills at email@example.com or (08) 8204 2004.
Changes to prescribed activities under the Environment Protection Act 1993
Administrative changes to the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act), Schedule 1 – Prescribed activities of environmental significance will come into effect on 1 June 2019.
Schedule 1 of the Act sets out activities that require an authorisation from the Environment Protection Authority, usually in the form of a licence.
The changes will not affect who needs to have a licence or licence requirements. The only exception is fish processing, where the trigger for when a licence is required has been reduced.
Licence fees and conditions will not change as a result of these amendments.
The amendments will:
- better reflect modern terminology;
- make it clearer when environmental authorisation is required;
- better differentiate between waste activities to simplify regulation and reporting on industry character; and
- take into account changes to the EP Act due to the introduction of the Environmental Protection (Waste Reform) Amendment Act 2017.
You can also expect to see changes to licence activity reference numbers and/or phrasing after the changes take effect.
Read a summary of the upcoming changes and further information.
For further information on this matter, please contact Doug Johnston on 8204 2027 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Test your bore water this summer
Bore use is at its peak in summer, so there’s no better time to have your water tested to ensure it's safe.
The Environment Protection Authority is running its annual “It’s best to test” campaign to remind gardeners of the importance of regular testing for their bore water.
Most home bores tap into shallow aquifers, and these are the ones affected by historical contamination.
Metropolitan Adelaide has been home to a wide range of industrial activities over the years, and this has resulted in chemicals such as heavy metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides and nitrates leaching into the soil and contaminating the groundwater.
In most cases of contamination, the EPA advises people not to use their groundwater, but sometimes when the contamination is severe and widespread, a groundwater prohibition area is declared, like those in place in Edwardstown, Glenelg East, and Flinders Park.
Aquifers are notoriously difficult to decontaminate, and once they are polluted, they are likely to remain so for many years to come, so anyone who has been told not to use their bore water in the past should not start using it again.
Even if their bore is not polluted, it risks spreading the plume of contamination further.
It is safe to eat fruit and vegetables grown in areas with contaminated aquifers, so long as the produce has not been irrigated with bore water.
Deeper bores, like those typically used by councils and schools for watering large spaces, are also safe.
Container deposit review under way
A review of the South Australian container deposit scheme (CDS) is under way, with key stakeholders and the community being invited to share their thoughts.
The scoping paper, Improving South Australia’s Recycling Makes Cents, is the start of a conversation on how we can build on our success and improve the effectiveness of the CDS in recycling and litter reduction.
Introduced in 1977, South Australia’s CDS is a highly successful environmental program, reducing litter and recovering valuable resources.
Almost 603 million containers, or 42,912 tonnes of glass, cardboard and aluminium, were returned to collection depots for recycling in 2017-18.
Discussions are under way with key stakeholders to identify the issues and options that will be the focus of the review.
These stakeholder discussions and public consultation will inform a CDS review discussion paper for stakeholder and community consultation in mid-2019.
The CDS review is running at the same time as a review of single-use plastics led by Green Industries SA.
A discussion paper, Turning the tide on single-use plastic products, seeks to further the public conversation around a range of plastic products that are having a serious impact on our environment.
Both consultations run until 22 February.