The EPA Monitor is a monthly newsletter produced by the Communication and Media Branch. If you wish to receive regular updates, please email to subscribe.
The EPA has implemented business continuity arrangements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health and welfare of employees, stakeholders and community is the EPA’s priority. While the way work is carried out may change, the focus remains on providing support and guidance to industry and the community. This will help ensure that businesses can continue to operate within the Government’s social distancing requirements and to keep the environment and the community safe.
Many EPA staff are working from home. They will continue to be available by email and phone, and will also seek alternative solutions for face-to-face meetings where possible. This might include invitations to take part in meetings via video or teleconferencing.
Responses to some enquiries might take longer than usual while the most urgent and important matters are prioritised.
It is critical that the EPA’s contact with licensees continues to be effective during this time. Licensees are encouraged to contact the EPA early if they have any emerging or urgent issues or risks.
Licensees are also encouraged to continue to engage with neighbours and communities. There are many options available to stay connected, including digital platforms. The EPA’s community engagement team is available to assist with advice.
The EPA can be contacted via email or 24/7 on 08 8204 2004 and will continue to provide updates on the EPA website.
The EPA is prosecuting Nyrstar Port Pirie Pty Ltd for causing serious environmental harm.
The complaint states that between 31 January and 3 February 2019 the company polluted the environment by discharging, or failing to prevent the discharge of, about 700 litres of sulphuric acid from its site into First Creek at Port Pirie.
Potential environmental harm was caused by polluting the environment and creating harmful conditions for fish and other plant and animal life in the creek.
The offence is covered by section 79(2) of the Environmental Protection Act 1993.
The matter will be heard in the Environment, Resources and Development Court of South Australia.
Further testing at Albert Park
The EPA has asked landholders of 6 properties at Albert Park for access to their properties to conduct environmental assessments.
The EPA has been undertaking monitoring work since March 2019 near a site that was used to manufacture tin cans between 1940 and 1984.
Groundwater near the site, at 24 Murray Street, is known to be contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE) from historical industrial chemical use. TCE was used for metal cleaning and historic handling instructions were to tip it out onto the ground.
On 12 September 2019 the EPA established a groundwater prohibition area to protect current and future residents from contaminated groundwater in parts of Hendon, Royal Park, Seaton and Albert Park. Residents are reminded that bore water should not be used for any purpose.
The EPA recently received results from a second stage of soil vapour sampling in the area and the next step will be looking at whether TCE has entered residential indoor air as vapour at the 6 properties.
In the rare instance that a home is affected by vapour contamination, the EPA works with residents to manage any potential health risk.
For more information visit Albert Park update.
EPA monitoring data has shown the effect of this summer’s devastating fires on the state’s air quality.
Smoke from fires and other sources of pollution raises the concentration of fine particles in the air, and can result in health problems, especially for children, older people and those living with respiratory diseases like asthma.
This graph shows spikes associated with smoke from the bushfires on Yorke Peninsula, Cudlee Creek, and Kangaroo Island, and even from those interstate, plotted against data from the previous five years.
These spikes represent several instances when concentrations of PM 2.5 particles exceeded the national standard of 25 micrograms/m3, and others where levels were not hazardous, but resulted in visible smoke haze across Adelaide and regional parts of the state.
In the wake of December and January’s devastating bushfires, the EPA has been working with the community and other State Government agencies to provide advice and assistance.
EPA staff attended the State Emergency Centre on a daily basis while the fires were active, are part of the State Recovery Operations Group, attend Local Recovery Group meetings and local community meetings in the Cudlee Creek and Kangaroo Island fire grounds, and have staff assisting on a regular basis at the Local Recovery Centres.
They are also working with the fire-affected areas of Keilira and Yorktown, as well as Port Lincoln following the recent flooding.
The Solid Waste Levy has been waived for people affected by the fires on Kangaroo Island, and in Cudlee Creek, Yorktown and Gawler in order to reduce the cost of disposing of large amounts of burnt material.
Water experts have provided advice on a range of issues, including appropriate locations for burial pits for dead wildlife and stock in order to prevent contamination of ground and surface water, and potential contamination of dam and river water due to fire ash.
The EPA has also been providing advice Green Industries SA on waste issues, including the disposal of asbestos and CCA-treated timber, and with SA Health and the Bureau of Meteorology on air quality messaging relating to bushfire smoke.
Read more on disposing of bushfire waste, including government-funded waste removal.
Fine for illegal dumping in Spencer Gulf
A 48-year-old Port Pirie man has been fined $2000 for dumping more than 200kg of scrap metal in Spencer Gulf to create artificial reefs for recreational fishing.
The Environment Protection Authority received a report in June 2019 that a man had been approaching locals looking for scrap metal to use in artificial reefs.
The man was believed to be launching his boat from the Port Davis boat ramp near Port Pirie, leading EPA investigators to begin a two-month surveillance operation.
Investigators identified the boat, then located two disposal sites about 6km offshore, in 8m of water.
The boat owner initially denied being involved in artificial reef creation, but when he was shown photographs of his boat filled with old television aerials, he admitted to disposing of litter in marine waters.
He was issued with a notice to remove and appropriately dispose of the scrap metal at his own cost by 17 January, and has complied with this.
The fine is a timely reminder to fishers that creating private reefs is punishable under the law.
Material like this breaks down over time, contributing to pollution and creating hazards for other boaties.
Information from the public is invaluable in uncovering illegal reef building, and with new technology, the EPA can carry out on- and offshore surveillance to find those responsible.
If you have any information about illegal reef building in South Australia, please call the EPA on 8204 2004. You can remain anonymous.
Waste now unsuitable to recycle
About 10,500 tonnes of kerbside collections stored in shipping containers at Wingfield has been declared waste after it was found to be unsuitable for recycling.
Industry experts found that it had deteriorated to the point where recycling was no longer a viable option, as the paper and cardboard were breaking down.
The EPA required KordaMentha, the receivers for failed recycling company SKM, to carry out extensive investigations into how the material might be dealt with before the decision was reached.
SKM baled together paper, plastic, aluminium and broken glass – plus the inevitable contaminants found in yellow bins – then shipped the material interstate to specialised processing centres.
Unfortunately, there is currently no technology available in South Australia to manage the bales.
It will now be sent to Inkerman, north of Adelaide, and stored in a separate section of a landfill cell. If the technology becomes available in the future to process the material, it can be recovered.
Sending the waste to Inkerman will allow the owners of the shipping containers to reclaim their property after many months of not receiving any rent.
The Environment Protection Act was updated in 2018 to give the EPA stronger powers to require financial assurances from waste companies to guard against excessive stockpiling and abandonment, similar to cases seen interstate.
Earthmover fined for dumping soil in wetland
An earthmoving contractor who dumped up to 5,400 tonnes of waste soil into a River Murray wetland has received a hefty fine – and will have to remediate the damage at his own expense.
Stewart Morgan, 38, of Murray Bridge East, was fined a total of $29,000 in the Environment, Resources and Development Court.
Mr Morgan pled guilty to causing environmental harm to the Tobalong Wetland, failing to comply with the requirements of an EPA clean-up order, filling land in a flood zone without development approval, and failing to remove the fill when directed by the Rural City of Murray Bridge.
Tobalong is one of the last remaining wetlands between Mannum and Wellington, and plays an important role in the health of the river, as well as providing vital habitat for water birds and a range of aquatic life.
Mr Morgan was fined $11,000 for causing environmental harm, $4,000 for failing to comply with the EPA clean-up order, $9,000 for filling land in a flood zone and $2,000 for not removing the fill, plus $2,200 in prosecution costs and $960 for the Victims of Crime Levy.
He will have to comply with the terms of the clean-up order by removing the fill and revegetating the land as wetland habitat. The EPA will also seek reimbursement of its costs of $45,000 for engaging experts to assess the damage to the site.
In December 2015, Mr Morgan’s company, SA Morgan Pty Ltd, bought a property on Jervois Road, White Sands, which included part of the western section of the wetland.
Between 22 and 26 February 2016, he excavated a road to improve access to the river, dumping the soil into the wetland, which was dry at the time but vegetated with reeds.
EPA officers attended the site after a report from a member of the public, and ordered Mr Morgan to stop work. He had already spread between 2,000 and 5,400 tonnes of soil, smothering more than 6,000m2 of floodplain to depths of between 50cm and 1m.
Experts described the affected area as being highly disturbed, degraded and compacted, and said there had been a negative impact on native fauna and flora, and local waters.
The EPA issued a clean-up order requiring Mr Morgan to engage an environmental consultant, remove the soil and restore the site to wetland habitat, and the Rural City of Murray Bridge also required him to remove the fill.
He did not comply with either order, instead proposing to leave the fill in place and revegetate the area with terrestrial plants.
Anyone planning to spread fill or undertake works on a river property should seek advice from their local council before beginning work.
If you use bore water, it’s best to test
The EPA is reminding bore users that without regular testing, they cannot assume their groundwater is safe to use.
There are several professional, accredited laboratories that can test groundwater for a fee.
Metropolitan Adelaide has a long history of industry and manufacturing, and in the past chemical handling procedures were not as robust as they are today.
Dry cleaners, foundries, metal processors, timber processing plants, airports, landfills, refrigeration factories, petrol stations and fuel stores have all been associated with groundwater contamination.
Over the years, chemicals like hydrocarbons, heavy metals, nitrates, pesticides, and PFAS from firefighting foams have leached into the soil in some areas, and some of these, like TCE and PCE, are associated with serious human health risks.
While bore water in Adelaide tends to be used for garden irrigation or filling pools, this is enough to bring people into contact with hazardous chemicals.
Residents in a number of areas have been asked not to use their bore water for any reason, but it’s important to remember that undetected contamination may also exist.
Aquifers are extremely difficult to clean up, so once groundwater is contaminated, it is likely to remain so for many years.
If you have ever been told not to use your bore water, you should not start to use it again unless it has been tested and confirmed to be safe.
Mains water and rainwater are safe to use in areas where bore water use has been prohibited.
More information on site contamination and bore water.
More information on current assessment areas and groundwater prohibition areas.
Petrol station licensing
The new requirement for petrol stations to have an environmental licence came into effect in South Australia on 1 January 2020.
The EPA has received applications for 661 petrol stations across the state.
Petrol stations were added to the list of activities of environmental significance requiring a licence because of the ongoing cost of soil and groundwater contamination caused by leaking storage tanks.
While standard licence conditions now apply to all petrol station sites, fees depend on annual turnover, with small and mid-tier operators paying less than those selling large volumes of fuel.
If you are a service station operator and have not yet applied for your licence, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 8204 2004.
Fire foam grace period
The grace period for phasing out fluorinated firefighting foams in South Australia ended on 30 January, and their use is now prohibited without an exemption.
Fluorinated foams contain PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkalyl substances, which have also been used in a range of everyday domestic products including non-stick cookware, fabric stain protectors, and food packaging.
South Australia was the first state to ban PFAS in firefighting foams, announcing the change on 30 January 2018.
Industry was granted a two-year grace period to help it meet the requirements of the ban.
Seven sites, including large fuel stores and defence facilities, have applied for exemptions for an initial period of three years. Six have been granted, and the seventh is currently being processed.
The transition to fluorine-free firefighting foams can be a complex one at large sites, as they can have kilometres of piping to clean out or replace, and safety must not be compromised during the changeover.
The EPA is satisfied that if the sites are operated and managed in accordance with the conditions of the exemptions, it is unlikely environmental harm could occur.
All operators who were granted exemptions were required to enter into an EIP with agreed milestones to ensure the transition progresses.