1995 to 1999
The Environment Protection Authority was established – with 6 members appointed for their knowledge and experience in relevant areas.
Members of the first EPA Board from left, (the late) Ray Dougherty, the Hon Jennifer Cashmore, Rob Thomas (Deputy Chair and Executive Director of the Office of the EPA), Stephen Walsh QC (Chair), Mayor Anita Aspinall (Stirling Council), Dr Tim Gamon
The Office of the EPA became a group within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which assisted in the administration of the Environment Protection Act 1993.
In June 1995, the EPA had the equivalent of 70 full-time staff spread across the following 5 branches:
- Policy and Planning
- Monitoring and Wastewater
- Industry Services
- Recycling and Waste
- Administrative Services.
Many of the EPA’s powers and functions under the Act are delegated to staff within the Office, from Executive Director to EPA employees appointed as authorised officers for the purposes of the Act.
Initially the EPA was funded through a motor vehicle levy which was later abolished because it was considered to be a federal tax.
South Australia introduced controls to phase out ozone-depleting hydrochloroflurocarbons and EPA codes of practice were developed for automotive, domestic and commercial and industrial air conditioning.
EPA statistics for the financial year to 30 June 1996:
- 1,512 licences administered
- 100 environment protection orders issued (including those issued by police and council officers).
An Integrated Waste Management Strategy for Metropolitan Adelaide was released in May.
The Waste Strategy included a number of key elements for action, in particular improved infrastructure, strengthened regulation, and enhanced resource recovery to minimised the environmental and social impact of waste and reduce the volume of waste sent to landfill.
Five Airtrak units (pictured right) at a cost of $1.2 m were installed in the Adelaide metropolitan area in June to monitor photochemical smog. The project was funded through a joint arrangement between the Department of Industry, Science and Technology, local firm MCI and the EPA.
The Pollution Prevention Project was launched providing businesses with the tools to identify and implement improvements at a reasonable cost.
The Cleaner Industries Demonstration Scheme (CIDS) provided technical and financial assistance for companies to develop and implement cleaner production technologies. In 1995–96 grants and loans to the value of $381,818 were approved for 14 applicants.
Kaye Best and Keith Bilsborough working on the
EPA’s Pollution Prevention Project
The EPA held its inaugural roundtable conference, which has been organised annually since then and provides an avenue for a wide range of stakeholders to express their views on matters relating to the operation of the Environment Protection Act 1993 and the protection, restoration and enhancement of the environment within the scope of the Act.
During 1996–97 the EPA received notification of 74 incidents through its Emergency Response System. Significant emergency pollution incidents included a road tanker spill of its load of detergent at the bottom of Mount Barker Road which drained into the Patawalonga and the ocean; an oil tanker rollover near Strathalbyn which threatened to drain into a nearby creek; and a large spill of indigo dye into the Keswick Creek from a dry cleaning company.
Foam fills the Patawalonga after a detergent spill
The Integrated Information System (IIS) was introduced to efficiently store and manage information relating to core agency business. IIS provided a more efficient way to assess information on licensing, inspections, enforcements, development applications, environment improvement programs and contaminated sites.
An organic sulfur smell caused by a new sewage treatment process in May was labelled by the media as 'The Big Pong', which hung over Adelaide for 10 days. This was exacerbated by weather conditions trapping the odour in the Adelaide airshed.
The incident resulted in the negotiation of an Environment Improvement Program with SA Water and United Water, including an upgrading package amounting to $113 million.
Cartoon by Atkinson, published in The Advertiser
'The Year of the Toothless Tiger' – City Messenger – Front page criticism of EPA’s alleged inaction on compliance and enforcement.
City Messenger, 13 May 1998.
A departmental restructure (July 1998) resulted in the Office of Environment Protection becoming the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) which serviced the Environment Protection Authority.
There was a significant increase in staff numbers with the majority being from the former Water Resources Group of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Aboriginal Affairs, including staff from regional offices at Berri, Murray Bridge, Port Augusta and Mount Gambier and the Coast Protection Branch.
The 1998 State of the Environment Report was prepared by the EPA – drawing together contributions and data from many individuals and government and non-government agencies. The report provided 18 recommendations to improve and protect the state’s natural resources and ensure sustainable progress and development.
A new Investigations Unit is established, with two environmental protection officers (pictured right) to conduct a range of compliance audits, training in investigation techniques and enforcement activities.
Mobil was convicted on 30 April for causing material environmental harm and fined $24,000 with $600 costs. Twelve months earlier, an amount of an ethyl mercaptan which is used in LPG production was accidentally released from the Mobil fuels and lubricating oil refinery at Port Stanvac.
The chemical vaporised and dispersed through a factory premises in Lonsdale and spread to adjoining factories including Sola Optical Australia where staff became affected. A total of 17 people were taken by ambulance to the Flinders Medical Centre for treatment.
The EPA focused on reducing the impact of the many industries discharging pollutants into the Port waterways and better manage the unique ecological system of coastal estuaries, wetlands and rivers (pictured right).
Approximately 50% of metropolitan Adelaide’s industries are located in this region including tanneries, foundries and many small manufacturing businesses.
An Environment, Resources and Development Committee Inquiry into Environment Protection was established in July by State Parliament to inquire into the functioning and operation of the EPA.
The Inquiry makes 40 recommendations covering improvements to the Environment Protection Act 1993, greater powers and resources for the Authority, improved consultation and communications and improvements to environmental licensing and monitoring.