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New policy focuses on commercial and industrial noise
A new South Australian noise policy is set to come into effect from 31 October.
The new policy, which will operate under the Environment Protection Act 1993, has been developed after extensive review by the EPA and will replace the Environment Protection (Noise) Policy 2007.
The Environment Protection (Commercial and Industrial Noise) Policy 2023 will continue to protect human health from the impacts of commercial and industrial noise by providing an updated legal framework for the assessment of a wide range of commercial and industrial noise issues.
Noise pollution is not visible but falls within the definition of being both a ‘pollutant’ and ‘environmental nuisance’ under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
EPA Principal Adviser for Noise Ian Yorke said the fundamental nature of how the policy regulates noise remains largely unchanged.
“The existing policy has been in effect for 16 years and some improvements have been identified over that time,” he said.
“In addition, with the introduction of the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 (LNLC Act), local government is now responsible for the management of local nuisance issues, such as noise from sources not licensed by the EPA and domestic noise sources. Most provisions under Part 6 of the Noise Policy 2007 have been removed to avoid duplication of these provisions.”
The removal of duplicated provisions now covered under the LNLC Act has resulted in a name change to the policy, that will now assess and regulate noise from commercial and industrial sites.
The new policy is connected to decision-making regarding noise impacts of developments under the South Australian planning system, including the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 and the single online Planning and Design Code.
The new policy is established under Part 5 of the Act. It was gazetted on 3 August 2023 and will commence operation from 31 October 2023.
Proposed groundwater prohibition area at Woodville North
The EPA is proposing to establish a groundwater prohibition area (GPA) in parts of Woodville North and surrounding suburbs. The area covers portions of Woodville North, Pennington and Athol Park.
These suburbs have historically been areas where significant industrial and manufacturing activities such as the production of ammunitions, whitegoods and vehicles have been undertaken.
Chemicals identified in the groundwater include chlorinated hydrocarbons such as trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethene (PCE) and their breakdown products and metals.
The most recent EPA assessments have shown that groundwater in the upper three aquifers in the area are contaminated with a range of chemicals above drinking water guidelines.
The EPA establishes GPAs to prevent exposure to contaminated groundwater and protect public health. Before establishing the GPA, the EPA is undertaking a 60-day consultation period and wants to hear from residents and bore users.
EPA Director of Policy, Assessment and Finance Kathryn Bellette said the proposed GPA will prohibit the taking of water from bores to a depth to 20 metres for any purpose in the whole of the area shown on the map.
“The EPA has been engaging with the community in this assessment area for some years and we will continue to be available to answer questions,” she said.
Groundwater from bores in deeper tertiary aquifers, such as those used by council for the irrigation of ovals, have not been shown to be affected, therefore home-grown vegetables are safe to consume provided they are not being irrigated by water from bores drilled to less than 20 metres below ground level.
Mains water and rainwater are safe to use.
The EPA has been conducting assessments in these areas since 2018. More information is available at the Woodville North Engage EPA page.
Southern Spencer Gulf the focus of latest Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Report
The results are in from the latest series of Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports (AECR), with the Southern Spencer Gulf marine ecosystem and the Far North and Flinders Ranges inland surface waters the focus in 2022–23.
The AECRs are one of the longest ambient monitoring surveys of its type run by the EPA to monitor, evaluate and report on water quality from designated regions throughout South Australia.
EPA Director of Science and Systems Keith Baldry said the results highlighted that the marine environment was dynamic.
“There hasn’t been a huge change in condition in any of the biounits we monitored through the marine AECRs,” he said.
“There were some slight changes at the site level where some sites increased in percentage of cover of habitat and/or condition and others decreased but none of these were concerning. All results highlighted that we were working in what is a very dynamic marine environment.
“Around 60 percent of the marine areas surveyed were classed as ‘Good’, with the remaining 40% classed as being in ‘Fair’ condition. Tiparra, Franklin and Dutton were all classed as being in ‘Good’ condition.
“In the Wardang area there was an improvement from 'Poor' to 'Fair', with the biggest driver for the change in assessment being the improvement in reef condition since the area was last tested five years ago.
“The final area measured, Jussieu, changed slightly in status to be classed as in ‘Fair’ condition.
“There hasn’t been a huge change in the condition of this area, the change in status could be seen to reflect the multiple inputs into this area and that there were higher nutrients to be found in slower moving water in the bays.
“While there has been a slight change in classification, there hasn’t been a big change in habitat in this area. There’s been a slight drop in apex seagrass species such as Posidonia, but reef condition has remained stable.”
Habitat is the focus of the marine reports, with marine environments monitored in autumn when seagrass is at its maximum growth. However, assessment for inland water environments occurred during spring and early summer.
As part of the inland water AECR reports, 22 sites were sampled during 2022. These comprised of four sites from the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre Basin and 18 sites in the Far North and Flinders Ranges.
Seventy three percent of sites were classed as ‘Good’, with the remaining 27% classed as ‘fair’.
Mr Baldry said the results highlighted the need for everyone to take responsibility for their marine or land use by taking measures to reduce any potential source contaminating marine or inland waters, creeks and rivers.
Groundwater assessment update at Ethelton
The EPA monitoring of groundwater in the Ethelton assessment area has confirmed that the extent of groundwater contamination has reduced significantly.
The EPA has been undertaking environmental assessments at Ethelton since December 2020, investigating groundwater contamination associated with a former dry cleaning business that operated on Marion Street.
The assessment focused on chemicals including chlorinated hydrocarbons, primarily tetrachloroethene used in dry cleaning, and its breakdown products, including trichloroethene.
The assessment was conducted to determine whether this contamination may be a risk to residents.
The most recent assessment shows that the remaining contamination is now limited to an isolated section of the assessment area only, in the vicinity of Marion Street and Deslandes Street. There are no known bores in this vicinity.
Director of Policy, Assessment and Finance Kathryn Bellette said based on these most recent results the EPA will not establish a groundwater prohibition area at this time.
“Further monitoring of soil vapour and groundwater in the streets around the former dry cleaning site will also be undertaken in 2026 to confirm that impacts to shallow groundwater remain low and that no further action is required by the EPA,” she said.
“I would encourage any resident accessing bore water, such as via a pump in your backyard either within or outside of an area of interest to the EPA, to test the bore water to ensure it is fit for purpose.”
EPA working on dairy industry guidelines
The EPA has begun a review of the Code of practice for milking shed effluent and has undertaken early consultation with the South Australian industry.
It is also collaborating with Agriculture Victoria to make the best use of Australia's knowledge in sustainable dairy management to progress effective and nationally consistent approaches.
Agriculture Victoria and Dairy Australia collaborated to release national guidelines for dairy feed pads last month in a joint project with Dairy Australia. There is a national trend towards larger, more intensive farms.
Dairy SA’s latest annual report says there are 181 dairy farms in South Australia in 3 key areas – the Barossa and districts, the Adelaide Hills, Fleurieu and Murray region, and the upper and lower South East. SA accounts for around 10 per cent of national production.
In addition to the code of practice review, the EPA also intends to draft an odour separation distance guideline as well as a new planning and development guideline for intensive dairies. Both would be consistent with the new national guidelines.
The EPA is in the early stages of this work. It is anticipated that the documents will be completed in early 2024.
Pilot project set to help licensees adapt to climate change
The EPA’s Principal Adviser for Regulatory Practice Kimberly Maiolo spoke at the Climate Adaptation 2023 Conference in July on how the EPA is working with licensees to bring climate change adaptation into its regulatory framework.
She said the EPA protects, restores and enhances the environment through the risk-based regulation of pollution, waste, noise and radiation.
“We are fortunate to have a robust regulatory framework with a number of regulatory tools available to us,” she said.
“One of these tools is an environmental authorisation (also known as a licence). We set standards, through licence conditions, for a range of activities from wine making to mining to waste management.
“To date we have a strong track record on protecting the environment from pollution hazards but now we need to consider climate hazards more specifically. This includes how more frequent and extreme weather events may impact on licensed site and operations.”
Ms Maiolo said the EPA already required licensees to manage the environmental risks at their sites as a result of their activities, and climate change was a part of this.
“To help with this we are working on developing and introducing a climate change program that weaves assessing and addressing climate change related risks into our regulatory framework,” she said.
Individuals and businesses licensed by the EPA are already experiencing the physical impacts of climate change, from intense heatwaves, bushfires, storms and floods and transitional impacts relating to energy supply and demand.
“Clearly, the EPA don’t want to see environmental harm occur from waste facilities burning, wastewater lagoons overflowing and industrial waste contaminating the environment. We know it’s not good for the environment, community or business,” Ms Maiolo said.
“Licensees also have a desire and commitment to take action on addressing these climate risks, but small businesses in particular need support to do this.
“To respond to this challenge, we have established a pilot project with key licensees representing industries in waste and wastewater management and heavy industry.”
As part of the project the EPA will work with pilot licensees to improve their arrangements for dealing with more frequent and extreme weather events to ensure that adequate controls are in place to prevent or minimise environmental harm.
“We want to build capability so licensees are confident and able to undertake risk assessments and develop adaptation plans which may include new investments to prevent environmental harm and maintain operations,” Ms Maiolo said.
“We also want to tap into our pilot licensees’ knowledge and experience to identify barriers and drivers for managing climate risk and integrating it into existing risk management strategies.
“This will be done by identifying, co-designing and testing out information requirements, tools, templates, guidance documentation and data.”
“The learnings from this pilot project will also help to inform the development of a climate change environment protection policy to embed climate adaptation into the EPA’s regulatory framework.”
Developing a biosecurity bill for South Australia
The Department of Primary Industries and Regions (PIRSA) is undertaking consultation on a new biosecurity bill for South Australia.
The proposed bill will introduce a new framework and concepts to manage biosecurity risks and impacts in South Australia, including a general biosecurity duty which is to apply across government, industry and the community more broadly.
The draft bill proposes to replace the existing Livestock Act 1997, Plant Health Act 2009, Dog Fence Act 1946 and Impounding Act 1920. Certain provisions for aquatic pests in the Fisheries Management Act 2007 would also shift to the new legislation.
The proposed bill will:
- provide South Australia with a modern, flexible and responsive biosecurity framework
- support protection from pests and diseases that threaten our economy, terrestrial and aquatic environments or may affect public amenities, communities, and infrastructure
- bring consistency to the management of biosecurity across industries, by incorporating a number of biosecurity related Acts
- promote shared responsibility for biosecurity amongst government, industry and community.
Environmental investigation commences at Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island
The EPA has commenced an environmental investigation at Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island, into the cause of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated water seeping from an embankment at Christmas Cove.
Petroleum hydrocarbons are a group of chemicals typically found in fuels such as kerosene, petrol, diesel and motor oil.
EPA's Director of Policy, Assessment and Finance Kathryn Bellette said the EPA had received complaints about the issue, and work undertaken by others to date has not identified the source of the contamination.
“The geological environment at Penneshaw is complex,” Ms Bellette said.
“As part of the investigation we will be testing existing groundwater monitoring wells near the cove, reviewing the results, and drilling a series of new soil vapour and groundwater wells.”
The EPA is working with the Kangaroo Island Council on the management of this issue.
Work started in mid-June.
For further information please visit www.epa.sa.gov.au/environmental_info/site_contamination/assessment_areas/christmas-cove
Nyrstar’s licence renewed for 5 years
The EPA has renewed the operating licence for Nyrstar’s Port Pirie smelter for 5 years until June 2028.
The 5-year extension to Nyrstar’s licence comes after extensive review and assessment by the EPA to further strengthen the licence conditions.
EPA’s Director of Operations Andrew Pruszinski said the longer-term licence will enable improved environmental outcomes allowing Nyrstar to demonstrate its long-term commitment and investment in lead emission reduction, with the 5-year licence giving Nyrstar the certainty it requires for its operations, while also setting clear expectations for its longer-term lead-in-air (LiA) performance.
“The new licence will continue to require Nyrstar to invest in actions which drive Nyrstar’s performance towards the long-term achievement of the 12-month average lead-in-air goal of 0.25 µg/m³,” he said.
“This investment will also help to drive these key environmental improvements through the
development of a new Environment Improvement Program (EIP) with a key focus on actions and timeframes to reduce dust and lead emissions.
“As well as this Nyrstar is required to develop and implement plans to improve wastewater emissions and to reduce and where possible eliminate open stock-piling of lead-bearing materials.”
The new licence further reduces the annual average LiA limits that were introduced in the 2022 licence by 15% over the next 5 years.
EPA staff regularly inspect Nyrstar’s operations to ensure it is compliant with licence conditions and achieving outcomes for an improved environment for the Port Pirie community.
EPA staff also interact with Nyrstar in other ways for assessments, communication about performance and investigation of any incidents. The company’s new licensing conditions will apply from 1 July 2023.
A copy of the new licence will be available on the EPA website, along with a recently issued community update.
Environment Protection (Objects and Board Attributes) Amendment Bill 2023
The Environment Protection (Objects and Board Attributes) Amendment Bill 2023 (Bill) is currently before South Australian Parliament.
The bill clarifies and provides transparency on EPAs existing powers to consider climate change issues when administering the Environment Protection Act 1993 (the Act).
The Bill proposes to amend the Act in the following ways:
- addition of definitions for climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation and greenhouse gas emissions (section 3);
- addition of climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation terms to relevant Objects of the Act (section 10); and
- addition of knowledge of, and experience in, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation to the attributes required to be held by the membership of the EPA Board (section 14B).
The Bill does not add any new powers or requirements.
Alongside the changes outlined in the bill, the EPA is planning to commence a process to draft a new Environment Protection Policy under the Act that will provide guidance to government, private business and the community on regulatory requirements for climate change adaptation and mitigation in South Australia. The initial scoping of the policy will be informed through establishment of government and industry stakeholder reference groups and in liaison with the Premier’s Climate Change Council. Preliminary discussions are being held with key stakeholders.
The Bill was introduced to the House of Assembly on 3 May 2023.
Source: South Australian Tourism Commission
Draft PFAS guidelines
The EPA has begun consultation on 2 draft guidelines that deal with PFAS in South Australia.
As part of the EPA’s regulatory strategy for PFAS management, it has released the draft PFAS-contaminated waste disposal site suitability guideline and the draft PFAS in waste soils guideline.
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, are manufactured chemicals that have been used in a range of industrial and consumer products since the 1950s.
They are of concern around the world because they have been purposefully manufactured to be resistant to high temperatures and weathering and to not break down in the environment. They can also accumulate in food chains and travel through groundwater.
The EPA has run two digital information sessions for interested members of the community. The draft guidelines and further information are available from the EPA’s Engage site.
The consultation period ends on 1 March 2023.
Cleanaway Inkerman landfill approved for PFAS waste disposal
The EPA has approved PFAS-contaminated solid waste to be disposed of at the Cleanaway Inkerman landfill, north of Adelaide.
It means that South Australia will now join other Australian states in providing a landfill site where PFAS-contaminated waste can be safely contained and disposed of.
The decision comes after a rigorous 2.5-year assessment process being undertaken alongside community engagement, including further work regarding the broader policy and operational management of PFAS-contaminated waste in South Australia.
EPA’s Manager Circular Economy and Waste Steven Sergi said the decision was a positive move for the management of PFAS contaminated waste.
“The Inkerman facility has undergone significant development assessment and technical assessment by the EPA and other authorities,” he said.
“This includes the addition of PFAS to the site’s groundwater monitoring program, commissioning a Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment, and engagement with surrounding residents.”
South Australia was the first state in Australia to ban all fluorinated (PFAS-containing) fire-fighting foams, which have been a key source of PFAS contamination around the world.
A message from the Chief Executive
It is a pleasure to be writing to you for the June edition of the EPA Monitor. I am excited about joining the EPA and helping to make a difference to our state through the work that we do.
The EPA has a vital role to play in coming years as South Australia’s independent environment protection regulator. The transition to a net zero economy offers the prospect of a bright future for South Australia, and the EPA has a crucial role to play as we work alongside industry to help seize the opportunities that these changes will bring.
It has been a busy two months since I joined the EPA. I’ve travelled across the state to meet with staff and licensees. From field work to laboratories, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from our team and our stakeholders about the many facets of the work undertaken and overseen by the organisation.
And there have been several notable achievements in the past two months:
Today, the EPA renewed the operating licence for Nyrstar’s Port Pirie smelter for 5 years until June 2028, with the 5-year extension to coming after extensive review and assessment by the EPA to further strengthen the licence conditions.
The longer-term licence will enable improved environmental outcomes allowing Nyrstar to demonstrate its long-term commitment and investment in lead emission reduction. The 5-year licence sets clear expectations for Nyrstar’s longer-term lead-in-air performance, while also giving Nyrstar the certainty it requires for its operations and investment plans.
In May, the EPA approved per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminated solid waste to be disposed of at the Cleanaway Inkerman landfill, north of Adelaide. The decision comes after a rigorous 2.5-year assessment process being undertaken alongside community engagement, and includes further work regarding the broader policy and operational management of PFAS-contaminated waste in South Australia. It means that SA now joins the rest of Australia in providing a landfill site where PFAS-contaminated waste can be safely contained and disposed of.
Additionally, the Environment Protection (Objects and Board Attributes) Amendment Bill 2023 (Bill) is currently before the South Australian Parliament to clarify and provide transparency to the EPA’s existing powers to consider climate change issues when administering the Environment Protection Act 1993 (the Act).
Alongside the changes outlined in this Bill, the EPA is also in the early planning stages for scoping a new Environment Protection Policy under the Act. This will provide more detailed policy for climate change adaptation and mitigation regulation in South Australia.
New groundwater prohibition area in force
Stage 2 of the Beverley and surrounding areas Groundwater Prohibition Area (GPA) came into effect on 16 March.
This stage covers part of Seaton and is required to prevent the use and spread of contaminated groundwater.
It prohibits the taking of water to a depth of 45 metres. Deeper aquifers are not known to be affected by the site contamination, caused by the historic use of industrial solvents such as chlorinated hydrocarbons.
More information can be found on the Engage EPA website.
Clean Up Australia (every) Day
Clean Up Australia Day is held on the first Sunday in March, but the challenge to reduce waste exists year-round.
EPA staff joined in this year’s challenge to make public pledges to take a range of simple, practical steps to further reduce waste.
Through reducing the use of single-use items and choosing sustainable options, individuals, families and businesses can help create a circular economy by keeping resources circulating and out of landfill.
The Clean Up Australia Rubbish Report released this month provides a snapshot of the rubbish removed by volunteers in 2022, with plastics accounting for almost two-thirds of the items collected.
The figures for South Australia showed high amounts of rubbish found on roadsides, public bushland, beaches and waterways. Soft plastics comprised 25 per cent of volunteers’ collections, with hard plastics at 27 per cent and polystyrene at 11 per cent.
If you’re unsure about how to dispose of waste and recyclables, check out Green Industries’ Which Bin resource.
Visit Clean Up Australia for the rubbish reports and information on how to register a clean-up event.
Seeking the best environmental outcome for fire site
A fire last month at the Lincoln Gap location of an EPA-licensed operator was extinguished by the CFS and the site has been handed back to the owners.
Two of the five tanks were set alight on 23 February. Two other tanks are full of tyres.
The site was licensed by the EPA in 2010 as a waste tyre treatment operation and transport business.
Over time the EPA observed stockpiling tyres and a reduction in tyre processing. In 2019 the EPA licence was varied to prevent the receipt of more end-of-life tyres and to increase the processing rate of the existing tyres.
Subsequent observations found no significant reduction in stockpile volumes and that processing had ceased, and in April 2020 the EPA issued a clean-up order requiring the removal of the tyres by January 2021.
The conditions of the order were not met, and the site was abandoned by the operators. Since 2021 the EPA has engaged with a number of organisations involved with used tyre management, product stewardship and recycling.
The EPA’s priority is the protection of public health and the environment.
A number of scientific and compliance EPA officers have attended the site to provide advice to support CFS activities, to assess environmental impacts and to provide information to inform future action.
While the clean-up of the site remains the responsibility of the owners, the EPA will continue to work with all involved parties to achieve the best environmental outcome.
New leader for the EPA
Dr Jon Gorvett has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of the EPA.
Currently the Deputy Chief Executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC), he will take up his new role on 1 May. The EPA's Keith Baldry has been acting Chief Executive since September 2022.
Dr Gorvett has significant experience in government in Australia and the United Kingdom. He held senior roles in the UK Government in London and the European Union and was the UK's lead EU negotiator on climate change, negotiating new policy and legislation between 28 countries and the European Parliament.
He also led the intergovernmental relations and emergency management teams responding to the bushfires of 2019–20 and the management of COVID-19.
Before joining DPC Dr Gorvett was Director of Climate Change at the state Department for Environment and Water.
Modernisation of radiation safety legislation
New legislation and regulations governing radiation safety in South Australia came into effect on 11 February, promoting national uniformity and replacing an Act that was 40 years old.
The Radiation Protection and Control Act 2021 and the Radiation Protection and Control Regulations 2022 adopt international and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) codes and standards.
The commencement of the legislation was the culmination of several years’ work by branches across the EPA and members of the state’s Radiation Protection Committee, an expert advisory body appointed by the Governor.
The Act and regulations support the principles of sustainable development, enabling access by South Australians to the benefits of new radiation technologies, and providing a modern, risk-based approach that focuses on the important issues and removes unnecessary administrative burdens.
Guidance documents for a range of sectors, including radiology, dentistry, nuclear medicine, veterinary and accredited testers, are on the EPA website.
Extension of northern Adelaide groundwater prohibition area
The EPA will extend an existing groundwater prohibition area (GPA) at Edinburgh to parts of Waterloo Corner, Bolivar and St Kilda.
The EPA has completed a three-month community engagement process and property owners and residents in the area have been informed of the decision.
The GPA, to be known as Edinburgh Stage 2, will come into effect on 23 February and follows the establishment of the first stage in February 2022. Both are needed because of historic contamination by per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Driver Road at Waterloo
Dealing with the aftermath of River Murray flooding
One of the state’s biggest natural disaster clean-ups is under way as River Murray communities recover from significant flooding.
The State Government’s involvement in the waste management element is led by Green Industries SA (GISA) with advice and support from the EPA.
Free structural assessments are available to people with primary residences and holiday homes in the affected areas, as well as small businesses and not-for-profit organisations.
Material will be recycled wherever possible. This will include sand from sandbags, which can be used later in rebuilding flood-damaged roads.
Flood mud – the wet clay, soil and sand that settles on the ground after flood waters recedes – must not be placed into any waterways, including the River Murray.
Under the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015, these substances are classed as pollutants that can affect the recovery of the river’s ecosystem. More information, including options for disposing of flood mud, can be found on the EPA website.
Information about property assessments and the clean-up process is available from GISA.
Property owners with flood-affected material and debris can get five free vouchers for drop-offs to any of the 11 transfer stations in the River Murray region. This program is jointly funded by the state and federal governments under disaster recovery funding arrangements.
The funding will help local government to extend transfer station opening hours, put on more staff, and cover the costs of recycling, where possible, and landfill.
People who have previously registered for flood relief or financial assistance will already have a client ID. This can be used to pick up the vouchers at any of the participating landfills.
Further information on the vouchers.
Flooding at Blanchetown