2010 to 2015
Drought conditions and overuse of water resources in the Murray–Darling Basin continued to threaten water quality in the lower River Murray (below Lock 1) and Lower Lakes. The EPA conducted monitoring and scientific assessment of water quality in the Lower Lakes, sampling over 20 sites on a regular basis and additional sites associated with acidification events, eg Currency Creek.
The program provided advance warning of water quality issues (eg acidification) to enable the State Government to undertake management actions to avoid adverse impacts on the environment and communities.
The EPA also managed the Lower Lakes Acid Sulfate Soil Research Program in close collaboration with the Department for Environment and Heritage, conducted to better understand acid sulfate soil risks in the Lower Lakes and inform management actions.
The EPA conducts monitoring and scientific assessment of
water quality in the Lower Lakes.
The EPA coordinated a program to measure for landfill gas in the Seacliff Park area after receiving information about the presence of landfill gas. The landfill gas related to a former landfill site which operated between approximately from the 1950s to 1970s. While the likelihood of any incident occurring was very low, levels of gas found underground in a former landfill was close to residences and the EPA advised a precautionary approach to rule out any risk to public safety.
Residents of 138 homes in Seacliff, Kingston Park and Marino were offered the opportunity to have their home tested for signs of landfill gas. The tests were conducted jointly by the EPA, Metropolitan Fire Service Officers, and officers from Holdfast Bay and Marion Councils.
No gas was detected in any of the homes tested for landfill gas, providing the EPA with enough data to be confident that homes were not at risk. The EPA worked with councils to conduct further investigations of the landfill and determine what actions need to be put in place to manage gas at the site.
New 'waste to resources' legislation came into effect on 1 September, giving the EPA stronger powers to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and increase reuse of valuable resources. Various wastes, including those with potential resource value such as computer monitors, television screens, light globes and whitegoods, would be progressively banned from going to landfill over the following three years and diverted to a system of recovery, reuse and recycling of materials and energy.
Under the Environment Protection Act 1993, the Environmental Protection (Waste to Resources) Policy 2010 provides a stronger legal framework to divert and decrease waste and further improve South Australia’s waste management practices. The Policy also supports waste strategies led by Zero Waste SA (now known as Green Industries SA) that have reduced the amount of waste going to landfill by 14.4% since 2002–03. >> Media release
During 2009–10, the EPA responded to 121 incidents through its emergency pollution incident response system, representing a 13% increase in calls from the previous year. The bulk of the calls came from EPA licence-holders and members of the public. Examples included:
- A large fire at Plastics Granulating Services in Cromwell Street, Kilburn where approximately 5 megalitres of fire wastewater entered stormwater drains and subsequently Barker Inlet wetlands. Issues with air-borne smoke and dust settling over neighbourhood also arose.
- A diesel spill at Malvern due to a low-speed collision between two trucks.
- The escape of 10,000 litres of effluent at Wingfield into the stormwater system as a consequence of a pump failure.
- A fire at Rand Refrigeration, Wingfield, raised concerns of fire wastewater entering stormwater drains and subsequently Barker Inlet wetlands.
As at 30 June, the EPA had approximately 2,100 licences and in accordance with its Compliance and Enforcement guidelines, undertook a risk-based approach to ensure compliance with environmental requirements.
During 2009–10, the EPA undertook 961 inspections with a range of actions resulting, including verbal and formal written warnings, issuing environment protection orders (EPOs) and for a small number of more serious cases of non-compliance, EPA commenced civil or criminal prosecutions under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
The EPA’s Radiation Protection Branch also managed over 7,800 licences and registrations for use of radiation apparatus and for the mining, use or storage of radioactive substances.
Groundwater and site contamination investigations dominated the year, with the EPA overseeing large-scale investigations at several sites attracting considerable public attention.
Site contamination is generally historical in nature. South Australia, like other urbanised cities in the world, manages site contamination issues that are the direct result of past polluting practices. These range from former petrol stations and gasworks to heavy manufacturing complexes. Dealing with this legacy and managing its impacts is a complex and challenging issue.
As the environmental regulator, the EPA oversees the site contamination system, ensuring the responsible parties meet their obligations in accordance with the 2009 amendments to the Environment Protection Act 1993.
Investigations at Edwardstown, Central Edwardstown, Solomontown, Port Pirie, South Road Edwardstown, Glenelg East, Elizabeth and Marleston all required significant engagement and communications with current and previous site owners, local residents and work sites, to appropriately manage the identified contamination and safeguard community health and safety.
The EPA also enhanced its communication practices by placing public notices for all new groundwater contamination notices in local newspapers and publishing its public communication protocols.
In addition, the EPA established an online public register directory for members of the public to easily access information about actual or potential contamination in their local area. This online tool was progressively expanded to include public access to EPA licences, applications, orders, and prosecutions and civil penalties.
The EPA continued to promote strong and proactive compliance behaviour by awarding Sustainability Licences to the University of Adelaide and OneSteel in Whyalla.
The EPA completed 2 industry sector audits that targets lower-risk and unlicensed activities, focussing on inland marinas from the potential for vessels to introduce pollutants to surface water and coffee roasters, due to odour and particulate emissions to the environment. Of the 27 vessel facilities inspected, 15 required an EPA licence, and 7 coffee roasters required an EPA licence.
At 30 June, the EPA had approximately 2,100 licences and inspected 257 high priority sites, with a range of actions including verbal and formal written warnings and environment protection orders (EPOs). For a small number of more serious cases of non-compliance, the EPA commenced civil or criminal prosecutions under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
Two civil penalties were successfully negotiated with United Water International Pty Ltd for allegedly polluting the environment and causing material environmental harm, with a penalty totalling $6,545. Also, Fibrelogic Pipe Systems Pty Ltd for the discharge of wastewater into the stormwater system, attracting a penalty of $3,075.
Photo: Courtesy of ABC News.
Helen Fulcher’s term as EPA Chief Executive and Presiding Member of the Radiation Protection Committee, came to an end in August (pictured above).
The state government announced the appointment of the former Scottish Environment Protection Agency head Dr Campbell Gemmell, as the new Chief Executive of the EPA to replace Helen Fulcher.
Aquatic Ecosystem Condition Reports were launched targeting creeks and rivers across South Australia with sites including Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges; SA Murray Darling Basin; Northern and Yorke; Eyre Peninsula; South East; and Kangaroo Island. Reports are also made available for sites around the Lower Lakes.
Dr Campbell Gemmell (pictured left), commenced his role as Chief Executive.
On his arrival Dr Gemmell said he was aware that the EPA had been in the spotlight recently regarding a number of environmental issues.
'When we find a problem, we’ve got to work out who can help to make it better. Sometimes that means recognising a long history of pollution which takes time and substantial resources to manage,' Dr Gemmell said.
'I believe good, robust, long-term development planning and long-term solutions are paramount to the future health of the South Australian environment. And it is important for us as environmental regulators to be involved early on in the process.'
The Illegal Dumping Unit conducted a month-long campaign targeting vehicles transporting uncovered or unsecured waste in the metropolitan area.
The EPA requires anyone transporting waste to ensure all reasonable steps are taken to cover, contain or secure their load and that their vehicle is maintained to prevent spillage or leakage.
The EPA adopts a zero-tolerance approach towards waste operators who do the wrong thing and leads to polluting the environment while also undermining legitimate waste operators.
On 1 July, a new licence to possess a radiation source was introduced through changes to the Radiation Protection and Control Act 1982, which brought SA into line with other jurisdictions.
Licences to possess are now issued to a person or a company authorising them to conduct a radiation practice such as possessing, selling or disposing of a radiation source.
The licence applies to any person or company that owns or wants to own a:
- registrable x-ray apparatus
- registrable sealed radioactive source
- registrable premises in which unsealed radioactive substances are used, stored or otherwise handled
- cosmetic tanning unit.
An index of environment protection orders (EPOs) was made available on the EPA website as part of a commitment to make environmental information easily accessible to the public.
Cheryl Bart (pictured left) who stepped down as Presiding Member of the EPA Board on 3 August after a 4-year term, was committed to transforming the EPA into a modern regulator and a strong advocate for the EPA’s external image, as well as its place in government.
She oversaw many key reforms and programs and much change and growth occurred under her leadership, particularly the provision of more timely and easily accessible information to the public and the move towards the EPA becoming a more transparent regulator.
In October, Mia Handshin (right) was appointed as the new Presiding Member of the EPA Board.
The former Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Paul Caica acknowledged her skills and experience in law, media and the business sector.
'Mia is a lawyer by profession and worked as a columnist for the Advertiser for 10 years.
'She has been on several high profile boards in Adelaide and has strong experience in community engagement and leadership development, all of which matches extremely well with increasing openness and transparency of the EPA,' said Mr Caica.
The EPA developed guidelines for waste management so that wastes produced in metropolitan Adelaide are banned from disposal to landfill unless subjected to a resource recovery process.
A range of materials were progressively banned from disposal to landfill including fluorescent lighting, televisions and computers, with Zero Waste SA (now known as Green Industries) providing information for households and businesses on disposal options.
Some of the year’s highlights include:
- An Illegal Dumping Unit was established.
- Monitored run-off from the Mulhern waste oil depot fire in March.
- The launch of a compliance and enforcement program for new vessel wastewater regulations set out in the Code of practice for vessel and facility management (marine and inland waters).
On 21 January, Ian Hunter MLC (left) became South Australia’s Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation whose role includes responsibility for the EPA.
He was elected to the Legislative Council in 2006 and appointed to Cabinet in 2011.
Mr Hunter is also the Minister for Water and the River Murray and the Minister for Climate Change.
In other developments in the same year, 6 households at Clovelly Park are notified of indoor air sampling.
The tests carried out by Monroe Australia Pty Ltd returned levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) above the USA EPA Reference Concentration of 2 μg/m3 at 3 properties.
In June the EPA informed 650 residents in the Allenby Gardens and Flinders Park area that a water prohibition area would be established for the first time since amendments were made in July 2009, to the Environment Protection Act 1993.
This made it an offence to use groundwater for any purpose in the prohibition area with a maximum penalty of $8,000.
South Australia’s economy continued to grow, fuelled by exports of food and minerals, with almost 40% of South Australia’s exports being agricultural products reliant on healthy soils and adequate water.
Growth was highest in agriculture, forestry and fishing with a third highest in mining. Mineral exports contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and mineral extraction and processing relied on large amounts of water.
The State of the Environment Report 2013 revealed good news for South Australia.
The report noted that 'good-quality, relevant, up-to-date and accessible information is key to understanding the drivers of environmental change and to informing the coordinated response needed to manage the many and diverse impacts on our environmental resources'.
Sustained growth in the generation of renewable energy, more efficient use of water and electricity, and continued increases in recycling were some of the most notable positive aspects to this report. But there was also cause for concern, which was outlined as:
- Further decline of already poor biodiversity.
- Increased use of natural resources.
- Increased average temperatures.
- Increased development and industrial activity in sensitive areas such as the coastal zone.
- Increased use of private motor vehicles.
- Reduced water flows for the natural environment from the River Murray.
Reduced water flows from the River Murray revealed in the
State of the Environment report.
In April, the Chief Executive of the EPA, Professor Campbell Gemmell announced his resignation and returned to Scotland. Tony Circelli who had been the deputy chief executive, was appointed as the new head of the EPA.
Tony Circelli appointed EPA Chief
Executive in April 2014.
The EPA successfully prosecuted Gilbert Motors Pty Ltd for the discharge of hydrocarbon contaminated water, a listed pollutant from its vacant site at the corner of Morphett Street and Walker Street, Mount Barker.
A conviction was recorded with a fine of $1,200 prosecution costs of $800 and a victims of crime levy of $160.
The EPA advised 1,500 residential and commercial property owners and occupiers in the Keswick area of investigations into groundwater and soil vapour contamination in the area.
Residents were also instructed not to use groundwater for any purpose until further notice.
Around 1,400 residents in the Clovelly Park and Mitchell Park area were notified of a drilling and testing program to assess the extent of groundwater and soil vapour contamination.
An Environmental Project Management Team was established to work closely with the local community and act as a central point of contact for them.
Further testing of groundwater contamination commenced at Beverley in and around the vicinity of industrial sites.
About 200 householders living near the proposed Riverside Park development at Allenby Gardens in addition to 280 residents in Glenelg East, were advised of further groundwater and soil vapour testing.
The EPA investigated a report of illegal dumping of asbestos and building materials at Mutton Cove, near Osborne in Adelaide’s northwestern suburbs (pictured below).
A total of 13 decomposed horse carcasses were discovered in the Mount Magnificent Conservation Park, near Mount Compass, about 60 km south of Adelaide, with the EPA called upon to investigate this illegal dumping (pictured below).
A Kidman Park man was ordered by a judge in the Environment, Resources and Development Court to pay fines and costs totalling more than $20,000 for illegally disposing concrete waste on a private property.
He was prosecuted by the EPA on one count each of illegal disposal of waste and for failing to clean up waste after being issued an environment protection order.
The EPA assessed preliminary results from groundwater and soil vapour testing undertaken in April and May in Beverley, as part of an ongoing investigation into site contamination caused by previous industrial activities.
Environmental tests confirmed contamination at lower levels than previous test results had shown, however solid vapour data returned readings higher than expected.
A soil vapour bore being drilled on a road verge.
The director of an earthmoving business was convicted and fined more than $26,000 in the Environment, Resources and Development Court for threatening and abusing EPA officers during inspections at a site in 2013.
In February, he pleaded guilty in court to making threats and using abusive language towards the officers when they visited his Angle Vale property and during a conversation over the phone.
The court heard that he told an EPA officer during a site visit that, 'I don’t like being messed with, I have guns,' among his threats.
In her sentencing remarks, Judge Susanne Cole said that the language used by the accused was appalling, unacceptable and unlawful under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli said the officers who were subjected to the man’s tirade of abuse went about discharging their functions under the Act with considerable restraint, patience and fortitude.
'This judgment also sends a clear message that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated by the EPA to obstruct or intimidate its officers as they go about doing their work for the community’s benefit,' he said.
In addition to the fines, Judge Cole ordered the accused to pay $1,500 in court costs.
The EPA undertook several significant consultations during 2015, one being the Local Nuisance Bill which was released for public consultation on 15 July 2015.
The EPA also commenced consultation in regional SA on the discussion paper Reforming waste management: Creating certainty for an industry to grow which sought feedback on wide-ranging legislative and policy reform options to expand the waste management and recovery sector and create jobs. Subsequently, 59 written submissions were received.
In a landmark case, the Corporation of the City of Adelaide (ACC) was found guilty by the Environment, Resources and Development Court (ERD) Court for failing to meet a deadline to cap a landfill waste site, in breach of its licence conditions. The case was deferred until February 2016 for sentencing.
Following community concerns in relation to site contamination affecting Clovelly Park and Mitchell Park in 2014‒15, a specialist committee completed a review of the EPA’s management of site contamination in South Australia. Opportunities for improvement were identified and subsequently implemented, particularly in relation to inter-agency coordination, capability, community engagement and transparency.
The EPA also announced that all solid fuel wood heaters that are sold and installed in South Australia from 2015 onwards must now comply with an Australian Standard for smoke emissions under the Environment Protection (Solid Fuel Heaters) Policy 2015.
The inaugural edition of the Good for the Environment Good for Business showcasing best business practices was released.
In late 2015, South Australia was impacted by a significant bushfire in the Pinery region that resulted in the loss of life, homes, buildings and livestock. The EPA assisted in recovery efforts by providing advice to the community and local government on the disposal of various types of waste, including fire-affected asbestos and animal carcass disposal. The EPA and state government also waived the waste levy for councils and the community, in recognition of the significant amount of waste generated by the fire.