Assessment & remediation
On 27 July 2018, the EPA released a suite of documents providing guidance on the risk-based assessment and remediation of site contamination.
These documents are the culmination of four years of engagement and consultation, and describe the legislative and policy approach to risk-based assessment and remediation of site contamination in South Australia.
The EPA is providing training sessions to assist industry, government, developers and persons with the responsibility for site contamination to ensure a consistent understanding and application of the documents is applied across the state.
Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination
- Prepared to reflect the developments and learnings related to the EPA’s regulation of site contamination since 2009, and aligns the assessment of site contamination with the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act) and the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999. Provides step-wise processes for the determination of the existence of site contamination and the environmental values of groundwater at a site.
- Provides clear information to persons with a duty to notify of site contamination that affects or threatens underground water (section 83A of the EP Act).
- Provides a framework for the remediation of site contamination in alignment with the EP Act, including remediation goals, objectives and endpoints for site closure.
- Assists and supports the EPA’s regulation of site contamination in accordance with the Regulatory and orphan site management framework (2017).
- EPA regulation for application of the guideline will commence on 1 October 2018.
Guideline for the assessment of background concentrations
- Prepared and issued to establish the way in which assessments are to be carried out to determine background concentrations (section 3 of the EP Act).
- Summarises the information necessary to determine background concentrations, including the relevance of the lcoation of the activity.
- Provides a process of how to carry out assessments for background concentrations including information describing 'in the vicinity of' to align with the definition in the EP Act.
- Provides recommendations for sample collection in each environmental media, ie soil, groundwater, surface water, vapour and indoor air.
Site contamination policy: certification of practitioners
- Provides a transparent approach on how and when the EPA will recognise external bodies that certify practioners.
- Provides transparency when the EPA will require the use of certified practioners (ie orders, voluntary proposals and orphan sites).
- Details where the EPA recommends that certified practitioners be used (planning authorities).
- Outlines a 12-month transition period for the commencement of the policy.
Information sheet: site contamination consultant
- Update to existing information sheet (dated 2014) and provides general information for persons who are seeeking to engage a consultant (including a certified practitioner).
- Prepared by the EPA for the general public, appropriate persons, developers and person engaging a consultant.
- Provides a step-wise approach to selecting and engaging a consultant.
- Describes competencies of a consultant aligned with the competencies described in Schedule B9 of the amended ASC NEPM.
What is the process for assessing 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 (ASC NEPM) provides information to persons undertaking the assessment of site contamination and provides sound environmental management practices that should be adopted by all relevant stakeholders. It provides a national risk-based framework for the staged or tiered assessment of site contamination in Australia. The assessment of site contamination should be undertaken in accordance with the ASC NEPM.
The EPA has published several guidelines and information sheets on the assessment and remediation of site contamination, in particular Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination and Guidelines for the assessment of background concentrations. Information specific to the EPA regulation of site contamination matters is provided in Site contamination: regulatory and orphan site management framework.
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 ASC NEPM.
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 site contamination auditors, site contamination consultants and certified practitioners who have a range of competencies and relevant qualifications and experience.
A site contamination consultant is specifically defined in the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act) as a person who assesses the existence or nature or extent of site contamination.
A site contamination auditor is also specifically defined in the EP Act as a person who is 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 an auditor and a consultant or certified practitioner carrying out the assessment and remediation of site contamination.
How can I find a site contamination auditor?
A list of persons accredited by the EPA as site contamination auditors under the EP Act can be viewed on the register of auditors.
For further details, click through to the site contamination audit system.
How can I find and select a site contamination consultant?
Environmental site assessment is a complex and specialised professional area involving a range of disciplines.
Site contamination consultants undertake site contamination assessments and should investigate both human health and environmental issues. They are required to possess a wide range of skills and knowledge.
Selecting a consultant should be undertaken with care, as the quality and results of the assessment and/or remediation undertaken is dependent on the competency of the consultant. Selection should be similar to the process used when acquiring any professional service.
The EPA recommends consideration of all of the following factors to assist in finding an appropriately experienced consultant:
- Contact a company that employs an auditor accredited by the EPA. Refer to the auditor register.
- Contact the South Australian branch of the Australian Contaminated Land Consultants Association (ACLCA) for a list of current members on (08) 8353 8151 or visit their website.
- Seek advice from a trusted person who has previously engaged an environmental consultant and has demonstrated acceptable standards of competency and completed similar projects successfully.
In all cases the EPA recommends that you determine the name(s) of the individual professional(s) who will be working on your project, confirm with trusted referees how that person performed on other similar projects and how that person added value to their project(s).
For further details, click through to site contamination consultants.
I'm looking for information on a property – what information does the EPA provide?
The Land and Business (Sale and Conveyancing) Act 1994 (LBSC Act) and the Land and Business (Sale and Conveyancing) Regulations (the LBSC Regulations) are set in place to provide consumer protection for those buying property in South Australia.
Sections 7 and 8 of the LBSC Act provide that all mortgages, charges and prescribed encumbrances affecting the land and particulars of certain prescribed matters be provided by a vendor or their agent to a prospective buyer of land or small business before settlement. The LBSC Regulations prescribe that a Form 1 must be provided to prospective buyers that includes those particulars.
The EPA is required by the LBSC Regulations to provide certain information relating to property. In relation to site contamination, this includes questions set out in Schedule 1 of the LBSC Regulations, incorporating the section: ‘Particulars relating to environment protection’ and certain information relating to mortgages, charges and prescribed encumbrances affecting the land. This information is included in the ‘Form 1 Statement’ which forms part of the contract of sale documents for property sales.
Appropriate persons under the LBSC Act can make a direct enquiry to the EPA with payment of a fee for a Section 7 search, which includes the information that the EPA is required to provide to assist with the preparation of the Form 1 statement. The request must be made in writing with the current certificate of title reference of each parcel of land.
Those particulars may include information relating to site contamination, in response to the questions relating to the prescribed encumbrances or the 'Particulars relating to environment protection' set out in the LSBC Regulations. The EPA provides that information directly in the form of a ‘Section 7–EPA response’ letter.
Any person can make an enquiry – called a Section 7 direct enquiry – to the EPA upon payment of a fee. The EPA will then provide a response to these questions, as previously described, where this information is held.
To make a Section 7 enquiry, contact the Senior Administration Officer Section 7 on (08) 8204 2179 or email. For further information, see the relevant EPA publication: Section 7, Land and Business (Sale and Conveyancing) Act 1994 and the role of the EPA (2018).
A 'sensitive use', in relation to site contamination, means one involving a residential use (including all forms of residential use such as medium and high density developments and retirement villages), a pre-school (including a childcare centre) or a primary school.
What should be done about underground storage tanks?
Underground storage tanks (UST) or systems (USS) are a major source of soil and groundwater contamination.
The EPA recommends the removal of all USS that are no longer being used for the originally intended purpose (ie storage of petroleum products or other hazardous materials).
A suitably qualified and experienced site contamination consultant should be engaged to assess the site to determine whether there has been any impact to soil or groundwater.
A site contamination auditor may also be required to review the work completed by the consultant and ensure the site is suitable for its intended use, depending on the land use proposed and the nature and extent of site contamination issues.
For further details, including information on appropriate guidelines and the development of a South Australian code of practice, refer to the Assessment of underground storage systems.
Remediation is the treatment, containment, removal or management of chemical substances so that they no longer represent actual or potential harm to human health and/or the environment, taking into account the current or intended land use, that is not trivial. It also contemplates actual or potential harm to water that is not trivial.
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.
The EPA has published Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination that provides a framework for undertaking remediation and explains 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.
Certain types of remediation may also require development approval and an authroisation (or license) from the EPA.