Selecting a consultant – certified practitioner
Site contamination consultants are specifically defined in the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act) as people who assess the existence or nature or extent of site contamination.
Site contamination is an important environmental, health, economic and planning issue and can have implications for land-owners and occupiers, developers, councils, planning authorities, government and local communities.
The EPA has a policy to recognise certification bodies and schemes which certify site contamination practitioners as suitably qualified and experienced professionals. The EPA regulates site contamination using the instruments that are available under the EP Act. These instruments include (but are not limited to):
- site contamination assessment orders
- site remediation orders
- voluntary site contamination assessment proposals
- voluntary site remediation proposals.
As of August 2019, all work regulated by the EPA through the use of statutory instruments requires the preparation, or review and approval, by a certified site contamination practitioner.
Certification of practitioners
The EPA has a policy to recognise certification bodies and schemes which certify site contamination practitioners as suitably qualified and experienced professionals.
The assessment and remediation of site contamination is complex and should be undertaken by professionals with specialist knowledge, experience, skills and competencies. Poor quality work can result in significant cost and stress for current and future land-owners, including persons liable for site contamination.
The Certification of practitioners policy facilitates an improvement in the quality, reliability and accountability of reports and documentation submitted to government, planning authorities, land-owners and those who have liability for site contamination. This policy came into effect in August 2019, and:
- provides a transparent approach on how and when the EPA recognises external bodies that certify practitioners
- provides transparency about when the EPA requires the use of certified practitioners (ie orders, voluntary proposals and orphan sites)
- details where the EPA recommends that certified practitioners be used (planning authorities).
Engaging a certified practitioner
Certification is undertaken by independent private sector organisations. The EPA currently recognises 2 certification schemes and a list of certified site contamination practitioners can be found at the below links:
- Australian Society of Soil Science – Certified Professional Soil Scientist (Contaminated site assessment and management) Scheme
- Environmental Institute of Australia and New Zealand – Certified Environmental Practitioner Scheme (Site Contamination).
Both schemes hold certificates of recognition until July 2023.
Section 6 of the Certification of practitioners policy establishes the instances in which the EPA will require the use of a certified site contamination practitioner. This should be reviewed to assess whether a certified site contamination practitioner is required to be engaged and for what purpose.
In all instances, with the exception of site contamination audit reports, the EPA will recommend that a certified site contamination practitioner is engaged to prepare or review and approve reports in relation to site contamination. If a consultant is engaged who is not a certified site contamination practitioner, the EPA will recommend the prepared report be reviewed and approved by a certified site contamination practitioner even if through a third party engagement.
What to expect from a consultant
The outcome of the engagement of a site contamination 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. The report should be able to sustain technical and public scrutiny.
In some instances, the scope of a consultant's assessment may be limited by agreement with the client. In this case, the report should specifically identify the limitations relating to the scope of work and detail where this may not comply with relevant standards and guidelines.
Site contamination consultants are also required to specify the land use(s) taken into account in forming an opinion on the existence of site contamination in any written reports produced (section 103ZA of the EP Act).
The consultant's report should state that the assessment has been carried out in accordance with Schedules A and B of the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (as amended 2013) and include definitive statements regarding the suitability of the site for the intended use and that the site does not pose unacceptable risks to human health and the environment.
The EPA does not consider a report issued by a consultant in itself acceptable to determine the suitability of land for a sensitive land use where site contamination is suspected or known to exist at a site. In these instances, the use of an EPA accredited auditor is required to independently review the work undertaken by the consultant and to provide an expert opinion on the suitability of the site for its intended use.
- Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination
- Site contamination: certification of practitioners policy
- Site contamination: guideline for communication and engagement
- National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (as amended 2013)
If you have any questions please contact the Site Contamination Branch on (08) 8204 9934.