2005 to 2009
The newspaper headline EPA turns from toothless tiger to snarling giant (pictured right) epitomised the challenges for the EPA to get the balance right between environmental issues, social and economic (jobs) factors.
The EPA was accused of being 'heavy handed' in its strict licence conditions set for car parts manufacturer Castalloy (Ion Automotive Pty Ltd) at Plympton Park while the company was in voluntary administration.
The matter was settled in September with the EPA issuing Castalloy a 10-year licence, requiring the company to comply with odour standards by 30 June 2006 and noise standards by 31 December 2007.
The Environment Protection (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act 2005 strengthened the powers of the EPA.
The legislation provided:
- Civil penalties by allowing for the first time in an Australian state, civil penalties of up to $120,000 to be negotiated for less serious breaches of the Act.
- Greater power for EPA when industries close sites with a post-closure environment protection order for certain industrial sites which have closed that allows the EPA to require the site owner to test and monitor the land if there are environmental concerns;
- Easier prosecutions for environmental nuisance.
- Local government to protect their communities against polluters with optional direct powers as administering agencies.
The EPA provided South Australian industry with greater stability through the provision of a standard 5-year licence. The new license gave industries greater stability and reduced red tape by not having to apply for a new licence every year.
An audit of both licensed and unlicensed premises that could potentially present an environmental risk to the River Torrens is completed which identified 47 industries along the Torrens that the EPA will work with to introduce better practices and stop pollutants from entering the river system.
All industries that were audited agreed to voluntarily comply with EPA directions to improve their practices.
The audit was prompted by a major diesel spill into the Torrens Lake in July 2003.
SA’s Container Deposit scheme was added to the list of Bank SA Heritage Icons (pictured below).
Container deposit legislation was introduced in 1975 by former Premier Don Dunstan and has since been recognised around Australia and the world as one of the best and most popular conservation measures ever adopted.
EPA community engagement through
AirWatch – students using a ‘nasal ranger’
odour monitoring device during a presentation
on air pollution and air monitoring systems.
South Australia became the first State or Territory to adopt a negotiated civil penalty tool for environment protection. The new legislation introduced in July gives the EPA powers to negotiate civil penalties with alleged environmental offenders as an alternative to criminal prosecutions.
The EPA monitored airborne pollutants over a 2-year period at Birkenhead in response to a proposed redevelopment of the Port River area and ongoing concerns from local residents.
The monitoring program also provided the EPA an opportunity to gather baseline data for ambient air pollutant levels before the construction of the Port River Expressway.
The Environment Protection Act 1993 was amended to include provisions that assign responsibility for site contamination, to establish a statutory audit system for South Australia and give the EPA powers to deal with site contamination.
The legislation forms part of a set of measures to ensure that site contamination is adequately managed in South Australia including:
- A series of supporting publications including codes of practice, guidelines and information sheets.
- Amendments to regulations under the Land and Business (Sale and Conveyancing) Act 1994.
- Amendments to planning processes under the Development Act 1993.
The EPA completed targeted soil sampling at the former Lightburn factory site at Novar Gardens (pictured right). Soil sampling was undertaken on public reserves and footpaths at 13 locations throughout the area in August 2006. Samples were tested for waste sludge and solvents produced during the company’s operations. Results identified percholorethylene (PCE) and hydrocarbons.
The nature and locations of the identified substances suggested that their presence was not related to the waste sludge and solvents historically produced by Lightburn at the site.
Following a review of the results by the EPA and Department of Health, a further 7 boreholes were drilled on public land for the purpose of providing an additional level of certainty to the community.
No further PCE was detected and though hydrocarbon was again detected in a very confined area at 0.7m below the surface of a road verge, the Department of Health concluded there was no unacceptable risk to residents. Residents were notified of the results by letter. A report of the sampling was made available on the EPA website.
The EPA announces a new licence fee structure for industry, councils and government agencies that conduct activities of environmental significance and are licensed under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
The new fee structure, based on user-pays and polluter-pays principles, commenced in the 2008–09 financial year. The structure includes environment management fees that reflect environmental risk and resource efficiency fees to provide a modest incentive to reduce emissions of pollutants and increases in water reuse.
In November, the EPA audited houseboats on the River Murray around Morgan for sewerage containment systems to be compliant with the Code of Practice for Vessels on Inland Waters (2003).
In May, a trial audit was conducted in the Renmark region where a total of 50 houseboats were audited (pictured left). Only two vessels had compliant systems, with 31 others found to have had a technical breach of some kind and 17 vessels were unattended, requiring officers to carry out the audit at a later date.
The EPA imposed its first civil penalty in November by negotiating a $3,750 fine with the SA Brewing Corporation for discharging approximately 200 litres of beer into the River Torrens in December 2006.
The Radiation Protection and Control (Cosmetic Tanning Units) Regulations 2008 came into effect on 14 March. This prohibited the exposure of young people and others with sensitive skin types to ultra-violet radiation from tanning units.
The EPA’s Radiation Branch administered 150 South Australian solaria licences and enforced compliance with new regulations when they came into effect in early 2009. A 12-month moratorium on licensing allowed operators to complete required training.
The passing of the Environment Protection (Board of the Authority) Act separated the positions of Chair of the EPA Board and Chief Executive.
Helen Fulcher (pictured left) is appointed to the position of EPA Chief Executive and Cheryl Bart AO (pictured right) is appointed the Presiding Member of the Board.
The Adelaide Coastal Waters Study was released, reporting on the impact of industrial, sewage and stormwater discharges in the coastal waters and ecosystems off the Adelaide metropolitan area. The study paved the way for the development of the Adelaide Coastal Water Quality Improvement Plan.
On 1 September the deposit on beverage containers increased from 5 cents to 10 cents. This was the first rise since the introduction of the scheme in 1975.
The new refund encouraged more South Australians to recycle and reduce the amount of street litter and ultimately less waste sent to landfill. Environment and Conservation Minister Jay Weatherill holds a media conference at the Ottoway KESAB recycling depot to announce the new deposit increase (picture below).
In October, the EPA developed a Code of practice for vessel and facility management: (marine and inland waters) to encourage environmental management for marinas, vessel service facilities and vessel operators.
An important component of the code was the phased introduction, over the next 3 years, of greywater management requirements for all vessels, including houseboats operating on inland waters and marine vessels operating within one nautical mile of land.
An EPA report, in 2004, on the impact of greywater indicated that the contaminant load from untreated greywater discharge into the River Murray was around 200 mega litres annually.
In November, the EPA became aware of elevated groundwater and soil vapour concentrations of the chemical substances trichloroethene (TCE), vinyl chloride and dichloroethene (DCE) in the Clovelly Park area. The combined efforts of the EPA and SA Health staff enabled a swift response in the testing and assessing results, despite adverse weather conditions. Local residents were advised not to use bore water indefinitely while further testing took place.
Between January and March, the EPA and SA Health undertook sampling of soil vapour and indoor and outdoor air at Clovelly Park, to investigate the extent of the contamination and potential risks to the health of nearby residents.
Indoor air quality testing revealed that the TCE concentration in the majority of homes tested was below levels that required further investigation. However, a block of flats was found to have concentrations in ground floor units that exceeded acceptable levels and as recommended by SA Health, the tenants were relocated and the building was demolished.
The EPA continued to work with nearby industrial site owners to establish the source and extent of the contamination and to develop a remediation strategy.
In January, the South Australian Government introduced legislation to ban the supply of checkout-style plastic bags which also provided transitional arrangements until 4 May 2009, to allow retailers time to adjust to the ban. No formal compliance action was taken in these instances, other than the non-compliant bags being removed from distribution.
In March the EPA head office moved into new office accommodation – the green 6-star energy rated SA Water Building in Victoria Square, occupying the top two levels.
The SA Water building atrium provides
light, air and great sense of space.
The move required relocating 303 personal computers, 1,500 packing crates and 300 metres of compactus files from Grenfell Street to Victoria Square and consolidated staff from 3 separate sites into one.
This consolidation, coupled with an open-plan layout, has greatly enhanced the formal and informal communication and collaboration between staff in different branches and divisions and improved productivity.
The Level 9 kitchen area is perfect
for staff gatherings.
A waste company was ordered to pay the largest fine of its kind in South Australia’s history, for breaching the Environment Protection Act 1993, after an oil spill at Largs North. Mulhern’s Waste Oil Removal Pty Ltd was fined $460,000 in the Environment, Resources and Development Court.
The company was convicted and fined after pleading guilty to one count of polluting the environment causing serious environmental harm and nine counts of contravening conditions.
Mulhern’s successfully appealed and the penalty, was reduced to $145,000 but a subsequent EPA appeal to the Supreme Court was upheld, with Mulhern’s ordered to pay $415,000.
Third party compliance inspections of diagnostic medical and dental X-ray machines was accelerated, in response to a 50% increase in applications for radiation apparatus registrations in 2008.
Competent qualified technicians are now accredited by the EPA to conduct compliance tests in accordance with regulations. South Australia agreed in 2004 to move to a system of accrediting third party assessors, as part of the National Directory for Radiation Protection framework.
Environment and Conservation Minister Jay Weatherill announced a new licensing regime aimed at improving environmentally sustainable practices amongst industry.
The EPA’s Sustainability Licences were issued to businesses that commit to reducing their use of resources and their impact on the local environment.
Motorcycle component manufacturer New Castalloy Pty Ltd at North Plympton was the first business to receive the new licence.
EPA Presiding Member Cheryl Bart presented
the first SA EPA sustainability licence to
Mike Tomasi, Managing Director of New Castalloy.
Since the first EPA prosecution in April 1999 there has been a total of 51 prosecutions – including 5 negotiated civil penalties.
- Fines totalling $1,619, 034 have been imposed by the ERD Court, Magistrates courts and the EPA (in negotiated penalties).
- In two of the 51 cases the defendants were found not guilty and a further three were dismissed or withdrawn.
- All but 5 cases related to breaches of the Environment Protection Act 1993; 2 related to the Radiation Protection and Control Act 1982 and 3 related to the Pollution of Marine Waters (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1987.