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Welcome to the rebooted, redesigned EPA Monitor
We’ve had a little hiatus, but we’re back, better than ever.
Thanks to everyone who responded to our survey earlier this year on what sort of stories you’d like to see in future editions of the newsletter.
You told us your top four topics of interest were environmental issues (88% of respondents) new laws and legislation (85%), court cases and other regulatory action (63%) and investigations (61%).
In the future, you can also expect to see more stories about good industry practice, innovations and technology, and the field work EPA staff are carrying out around the state.
You also told us that you thought a monthly newsletter was just right, so look in your inbox for a new edition on the third Wednesday of the month.
If there’s a topic that you’d like to see us cover, please email us.
New Strategic Directions for the EPA
The EPA has released its new Strategic Directions 2018–2022.
The document sets out the long-term vision and objectives that will guide our work over the next four years as we continue to develop and apply modern and innovative approaches to tackle current and future environmental challenges.
The new Strategic Directions represent an evolution from our previous directions, with an emphasis on health outcomes, engagement and enabling innovation, and a refreshed overarching vision and objectives. They ensure that our efforts are aligned with whole-of-government priorities and expectations from the community and industry.
The development process has been comprehensive, including many strategic discussions with the EPA’s Executive Leadership Team and the EPA Board, and feedback from staff, industry, community organisations and other key stakeholders.
Our vision is for a better environment for the health, wellbeing and prosperity of all South Australians.
Our objectives are to:
- safeguard communities and the environment
- enable innovative and sustainable industry practices
- work with communities and industry to manage environmental challenges
- build and share our knowledge, science and information and
- be an effective and trusted regulator, striving for excellence in our capability and performance.
State Budget 2018 wrap-up
In the recent South Australian State Budget, two announcements were particularly significant for the EPA: new licensing fees will be introduced for petrol stations, and the Dob in a Litterer initiative has come to an end.
Petrol station licensing fees are being introduced in light of the fact that leaking underground petrol tanks are a known cause of groundwater contamination.
More than half the contaminated sites registered with the EPA are current or former petrol stations, but currently, petrol retailers are not required to have an EPA licence.
With the introduction of licensing, the EPA will be able to put conditions on the way petrol stations operate that will reduce the potential for contamination in the future. It will also allow for communities to be notified of new applications.
Fees have not yet been determined, but the EPA has begun consulting with industry on how licensing will be implemented.
The Dob in a Litterer scheme began in February 2017 as a way for people to easily report motorists throwing rubbish from cars.
The app-based program was successful in raising the profile of the problem of littering, and in its 18 months of operation, there were 1938 reports resulting in 1175 expiations.
However, it was expensive to run, and there was no evidence that it was having any impact on reducing the rate of littering.
Under the savings required through the State Budget, the decision was made to discontinue Dob in a Litterer to allow the EPA to refocus its efforts on more significant state-based issues, including regulation of all licensed premises under the EPA Act, and issues associated with industrial and commercial-scale activities.
Littering remains illegal. People can still be fined. Local councils issue littering fines, as they could before the program began and while it was running, and some councils have also started using the strengthened littering enforcement provisions that came into effect in February 2017.
Fine for quarry operator
A Highbury quarry operator has been convicted in the Environment, Resources and Development Court for illegal dumping and fined $24,200.
EM Earth Movers Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to operating a waste depot without an environmental licence at a clay quarry on Churchett Road, Highbury.
An EPA investigation found that between 19,000 and 47,500 cubic metres of construction and demolition waste had been dumped into the quarry between 16 August 2012 and 12 November 2012.
Testing identified elevated concentrations of heavy metals, organochlorine pesticides and hydrocarbons, as well as asbestos mixed in with the waste.
When the EPA became aware of the illegal activity, it issued an Environment Protection Order, and the site has since been remediated.
These types of activities can result in significant harm to the environment and cost to the community, both through loss of amenity and the cost of cleaning up when the operators have long since gone.
This latest prosecution is part of the EPA’s increasing focus on large-scale and commercial-scale illegal dumping, which has resulted in a record number of successful prosecutions in the past year.
Sign up for beach alerts this summer
Water quality alerts for Adelaide’s metropolitan beaches have begun again with the start of Daylight Saving, with a new feature allowing beach users to choose to be notified by email or SMS.
The messages are designed to let people know when water quality is not suitable for activities like swimming and surfing.
While beach water quality is usually very good off the Adelaide coast, it can drop when heavy rain flushes high volumes of stormwater into the sea.
These increased flows can result in discoloured or murky water at beaches that are near the mouths of rivers and drains.
SA Health recommends that people avoid contact with this turbid water for 72 hours after the stormwater has stopped flowing.
In the past, beach water quality alerts were issued for the whole metropolitan coast, but at the beginning of 2017, the EPA introduced an option allowing people to sign up for alerts for specific beaches in response to community feedback.
Individual alerts are now issued for Grange, Henley, Hallett Cove, Christies Beach, Noarlunga or Moana.
Sign up for beach alerts and for up-to-date information on beach water quality.
Glenelg East groundwater consultation
The EPA is currently carrying out community consultation on a proposal to establish a Groundwater Prohibition Area centred on Glenelg East and taking in parts of Glenelg, Glenelg South and Glengowrie.
The consultation is the latest step in managing historic chemical contamination in the area’s groundwater.
The groundwater has tested positive for number of chemicals, including perchloroethene (PCE) and tricholoroethene (TCE) from a dry cleaning business, petroleum hydrocarbons from degraded underground tanks at a service station, and heavy metals and cyanide from a former blacksmith’s forge.
These compounds can cause serious health problems if people are exposed to high enough concentrations over long periods of time.
The EPA has been in contact with the Glenelg East community for some time in relation to the contamination, and had previously asked bore owners not to use their bore water for any purpose.
In April, residents were informed that extensive testing had shown they were not at risk from hydrocarbon vapours inside their homes.
Council and the schools in the area can still use bore water for irrigation, as they access the much deeper Tertiary aquifer, which is not affected by this contamination.
Home-grown produce is also safe to eat, so long as it has not been irrigated with bore water.
In a prohibition area, it is illegal to use groundwater above certain depths for any purpose, and a maximum penalty of $8,000 can apply.
Case study: Incitec Pivot Fertilisers
Incitec Pivot Fertilisers has a history of more than 100 years of making, storing and distributing fertiliser in South Australia.
Now it has begun operating at a new, $25-million storage and distribution centre in Port Adelaide.
The 17,000m3 Adelaide Primary Distribution Centre site at Ocean Steamers Road in Port Adelaide features state-of-the-art facilities for storing up to 50,000 tonnes of fertilisers with the best available environmental control technologies.
The new facility is being used to store and load fertiliser into trucks for distribution to agricultural customers, and it is expected that 160,000 tonnes of fertiliser will move through the facility every year.
EPA Compliance Team Leader David Vaughan says the engineering design and management approach is considered best practice in South Australia.
“Incitec Pivot has implemented control measures on site to minimise dust from the fertiliser loading and unloading, storage and blending facilities,” he said.
“This ensures that the impacts on any adjacent sensitive receivers, the River or other businesses in the Port Adelaide River Industrial Precinct are minimised.
“All fuels, chemicals and hazardous goods used at the site are stored in designated areas that limit the potential for their escape into the surrounding environment.
“Any servicing of vehicles or equipment is also undertaken in the designated wash and maintenance bay.
“All hazardous wastes, such as waste oil, oil filters and hydraulic fluids generated during the service, are removed from the site to a licensed facility.
“The investment made in this site demonstrates Incitec Pivot’s commitment to ensuring environmentally sustainable practices.”
IPF Interim President Jamie Crough said they were constantly looking to innovate in ways that enabled them to care for the community and the environment.
“The company is conscious of the environment in which we operate, and we are demonstrating that not only through the investment in our new product distribution centre, but also through product innovation,” he said.
For more case studies, read the 2018 Good for Environment, Good for Business report.
The following guidelines and regulations have been updated recently:
- Environmental management of dewatering during construction activities 10 August 2018
- Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination 27 July 2018
- Container deposit collection depot guidelines 1 July 2018
- Beverage container approval guidelines 1 July 2018
- Collection depots – reverse vending machine guidelines 1 July 2018
- Guideline for industry community engagement 13 June 2018
One year milestone with Dob in a Litterer
The Dob in a Litterer program in South Australia is gaining momentum from the local community as more than 1300 reports of littering from vehicles have been lodged through the program in its first year.
The program launched on 1 February 2017, is part of the Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 and has been developed to support the South Australian Government’s commitment to introducing a public litter reporting system.
Since the program’s implementation, cigarette butts have accounted for approximately 80% of all reports received, with other items including beverage containers (4.9%), fast food packaging (2.6%), paper (11%) and green waste (0.3%).
A total of 315 warning letters have been issued and around 800 fines sent to motorists across South Australia.
Fines range from $210 for general litter, $500 for hazardous litter which includes lit cigarettes and glass, and $1000 for larger quantities of litter.
South Australians are encouraged to continue to support the program and report litter being thrown from vehicles to keep our streets and our environment clean.
Reports can be made via the Dob in a Litterer app or website.
The app can be downloaded for free from the Apple and Google stores.
The latest statistics are available every month showing totals since reporting first commenced in February 2017.
This is also summarised in a downloadable spreadsheet on the Data SA website.
South Australia bans PFAS
The South Australian government has banned the use of fluorinated fire-fighting foams in the state following amendments to the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015.
The amendments make South Australia the first state to ban the use of potentially hazardous fluorinated firefighting foams through legislation.
The EPA’s Chief Executive, Tony Circelli said the ban on fluorinated firefighting foams will effectively negate further environmental and human health risks associated with their use.
“The changes will provide the community and industry with certainty around the use of these products,” he said.
“The EPA will work directly with industry needing to transition through licensing, guidance and the development of environment improvement programs.
“We consulted with industry, community and individuals from April 2017 on the proposed ban and found there was strong support for the ban
Considerable work is also underway nationally, led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in the management of legacy contamination from fluorinated firefighting foams.
Australia’s first PFAS National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP) has been endorsed and provides governments with a consistent and practical risk-based framework for environmental regulation of PFAS contaminated materials and sites.
Environmental assessment works for more Adelaide suburbs
Suburbs being assessed are Brighton, Thebarton and South-eastern Edwardstown
There is a continued focus on environmental assessments across Adelaide with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) beginning works at Brighton, south of the CBD.
The environmental assessment activities began in March to determine if contamination exists in the area.
The EPA is aware that an area within the suburb, bounded by Jetty Road, Brighton Road and The Crescent, has known chemicals such as tetrachloroethene (also known as PCE) detected in soil vapour. These chemicals are generally linked to historical industrial use and manufacturing activities, including dry cleaning.
The assessment activity will determine the nature and extent of the soil vapour contamination.
The works being done will provide further information about any risk to human health and if groundwater is impacted by PCE which can move up through the soil as vapour.
The assessment area includes about 150 properties, a mix of residential and commercial premises.
Environmental assessment activities in the area are part of a prioritised program developed to investigate orphan sites where the EPA has enough information about previous land use to call for assessments to determine if there is a potential health risk.
Environmental assessments under this program have occurred across metropolitan Adelaide including Unley, Edwardstown, Thebarton, Glenelg East, Hendon and Beverly/Woodville West and Woodville South.
Residents were this month provided with welcome news that all properties in the area are safe from soil vapour intrusion.
The results follow extensive testing as part of the EPA’s priority program to determine if groundwater has been contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE).
Stage 2 of environmental assessments are being carried out in Thebarton, just west of the Adelaide’s CBD, as part of continued monitoring of groundwater and soil vapour contamination in that area. The works will commence this month and will provide seasonal information on soil vapour data.
Last year a small number of homes were found to have trichloroethene (TCE) detected in residential indoor air. A state of the art mitigation system is currently being installed in these properties.
Landmark decision on waste definition in ERD court outcome
The EPA has welcomed the Environment Resource and Development (ERD) Court’s decision in sentencing Adelaide Resource Recovery after an appeal found the company breached the Environment Protection Act 1993.
Adelaide Resource Recovery (ARR) was convicted last month for failing to comply with its EPA licence condition for storage of construction and demolition waste (mixed) undercover at its waste depot in Wingfield between September and October 2013.
ARR was also fined $25,000, ordered to pay $160 Victims of Crime levy and ordered to pay the complainant a lump sum of $8,250 for counsel fees, $2000 for an outline of submissions as well as 85 per cent of other legal costs to the Crown.
The matter arose out of ARR’s view that the material in question was not waste and hence not subject to EPA’s conditions and regulation.
In sentencing Judge Costello said there was no existence of any real ambiguity. Despite some processing of the material occurring it still came within the definition of waste in the Act.
His Honour held that if the construction and demolition waste had been stored undercover, it would have presented less of a potential risk to the surrounding environment.
EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli said this successful outcome in the Courts is significant as it provided greater clarity for the waste industry around what is deemed waste and what can be claimed as a product, an area of contention for the sector in South Australia and nationally.
“This case upholds and reinforces the EPA’s regulatory approach and policies relevant to the waste sector. Licence conditions are placed on companies to ensure the environment and community are protected from harm and that waste depots manage waste responsibility to meet these obligations.
“This has been a protracted matter with the EPA appealing the initial decision of the ERD Court. On appeal by the EPA, the Full Court of the Supreme Court in February 2017 found ARR guilty of contravening a condition of their EPA licence by storing Construction and Demolition Waste (Mixed) out in the open.
“While the EPA acknowledges the improvements ARR has made to its waste storage practices since this event, the EPA will continue to take regulatory action against companies that contravene their environmental authorisations. More serious contraventions will be pursued through the court system,” Mr Circelli said.
Response and recovery after fire at Thomas Foods International
The EPA joined the South Australian Government taskforce in January for the response and recovery efforts following a significant fire at one of the state’s largest processing plants.
Fire severely damaged the Thomas Foods International’s abattoir site at Murray Bridge, with a collective and intensive effort from the South Australian government, TFI and community to work through the complexities and logistics of the incident to ensure safety at the site and the company’s continued operations.
As the environmental regulator, the EPA worked to ensure all measures were taken to prevent environmental harm with the EPA’s priority to provide an urgent response to the incident.
EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli said the quick response and action prevented damage to waterways.
“The EPA and DEWNR (River Murray Operations and ecologists), local residents and a local earthmoving company took swift action following the incident at Thomas Foods International to protect waterways including the River Murray and the Rocky Gully wetland. This action also meant that they were able to safeguard two nationally protected species of fish in the wetland,” he said.
“Testing on site in the days after the fire in the waterways showed normal water quality conditions and no signs of adverse impacts,” he said.
The testing included ecological assessment of the drain adjacent to the Thomas Foods International abattoir, which feeds directly into the Rocky Gully Wetland then to the River Murray.
“This is a longer-term process and the EPA is working with other agencies and TFI on effective water management of the water canals on the TFI Murray Bridge premises to minimise any potential environmental harm in the future,” Mr Circelli said.
The EPA has also continued to work with TFI on the appropriate transport and removal of animal carcasses destroyed or spoiled by the fire as well as inspected the landfill to make sure that the disposal complied with the licence conditions to reduce any nuisance issues such as odour.
All trucks involved in the disposal of the carcasses were required to be rinsed at the landfill after delivery before returning to the TFI site to reduce odour in the area.
The EPA and other agencies are continuing to proactively work with TFI to identify how the local water and sewer network can best support a planned increase in processing at Lobethal, while limiting impacts on the environment and community.