2016 to 2020
The Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 came into effect on 1 January 2016, following an extensive review of the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2003 and other legislation and policies used in relation to the regulation and management of South Australia's water quality.
This policy provides a mechanism for ensuring that all activities, irrespective of scale of operation and whether or not an activity is subject to licensing, operate under uniform conditions regarding water quality.
During 2016, the EPA oversaw a landmark court case in the Environment, Resources and Development Court (ERD Court) where a Devon Park man was sentenced to prison for repeatedly dumping building and construction waste on public land over a 2-year period.
This was the first time a jail sentence had been imposed by a South Australian court for illegally dumping waste under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
A Salisbury Downs man was the first person ever charged for offering and providing cosmetic tanning for a fee to the public.
In another first, the EPA issued a licence for an aerodrome in South Australia, to necessitate regulating the impact of flight movements on residents around Aldinga.
In May 2016, Linda Bowes was appointed as Presiding Member of the EPA Board, a position she held until 2018. Having joined the Board in 2005, Linda became one of the longest-serving members.
On 11 June, the EPA announced that it had begun an investigation into the use of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) in the state in response to reports around the use of the chemical at defence bases.
Groundwater and soil vapour environmental assessment results for Glenelg East to detect chemicals including trichloroethene (TCE), revealed no traces of any contamination for 90% of all 420 properties in the assessment area. In addition, residents of South-Eastern Edwardstown received positive news that an environment assessment report found all levels of chemicals (including TCE) to be safe and no testing was required in private homes.
In July 2016 the state government established the Orphan Site Fund and Orphan Site Committee to proactively manage site contamination that presents a potential health risk.
The Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016 also came in to effect during the year and gained statewide media attention, particularly surrounding the sale and installation of wood heaters, and the management of burning in the open.
The EPA upheld a strong presence in Port Augusta this year when Flinders Power demolished one of its stacks. Compliance officers conducted dust monitoring during the demolition and worked with Flinders Power to ensure all reasonable and practicable measures were being taken to prevent or minimise dust emissions, with a focus on management of the ash dam area.
The EPA concluded the year by undertaking ‘Operation Cover-Up’ which targeted irresponsible truck drivers who failed to properly cover waste material being transported and posing a health and safety risk to the community. The initiative identified over 40 trucks in the Adelaide CBD and on metropolitan roads with uncovered loads.
South Australia celebrated a milestone with it being 40 years since the introduction of the container deposit legislation in 1977. South Australia is still leading the nation in the recovery, recycling and litter reduction of beverage containers. In 2017, more than 6 million containers were returned under the scheme, with an average annual return of around 80%. This was equal to about 583 million containers that were recovered and recycled, ultimately resulting in a reduction of landfill waste.
Dust concerns among members of the Port Augusta community were a significant focus for the EPA in early 2017 and the authority issued an environment protection order (EPO) to Flinders Power, as the responsible owner of the former Port Augusta power stations. Heavy rains and winds reduced the effectiveness of dust suppressant which had been applied to the ash dam, sparking community concerns around the health impacts of the dust.
In May 2017, the EPA called on the public for information following the discovery of illegally dumped asbestos at Willunga Hill and Mosquito Hill, south of Adelaide. A total of 8 bags of asbestos contaminated material was dumped at Willunga Hill. The bags, containing 160 kg of broken asbestos telecommunication pits and soil from the pit removal sites, was found packaged and labelled in bushes at the rest area on the down track of Willunga Hill.
Further information was sought from the public in July 2017 regarding the discovery of an additional 900 kg of asbestos in a nature strip at the intersection of Kokoda and Goolwa Roads, at Mosquito Hill, south of Adelaide. The asbestos was wrapped in 30 plastic bags printed with ‘asbestos waste’ and sealed with grey adhesive duct tape, as well as a further 5 packages wrapped in black plastic sheeting and also sealed with grey adhesive duct tape.
The EPA announced that it would remove the levy on the disposal of packaged asbestos waste from 1 July 2017 in an effort to improve safe waste management and promote recycling.
During 2017, the EPA also completed its indoor vapour testing for a number of Thebarton and Mile End properties after preliminary soil vapour results showed high concentrations of trichloroethene (TCE) in some areas.
The EPA responded by installing vapour mitigation systems in homes where owners accepted the offer of a pilot trial. An Australian first, this trial was extremely effective and paved the way for the installation of future mitigation systems.
Significant legislation came into effect during the year when local councils were granted stronger powers to resolve local nuisance issues such as noise, smoke and dust. The Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act 2016 makes councils responsible for investigating and dealing with local nuisance, and it also provides a consistent framework across the state.
The EPA commenced the year with the announcement of 2 formal groundwater prohibition areas (GPA). The first GPA took effect on 9 January 2018 in Edwardstown, and the second was established for Glenelg East, Glenelg South, Glenelg and Glengowrie which came into effect from 20 December 2018.
In January 2018, a significant fire damaged the Thomas Foods International’s abattoir site at Murray Bridge. As one of the state’s biggest processing plants, a collective and intensive effort was made 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.
The EPA Board announced its new Presiding Member (Catherine Cooper) and Deputy Presiding Member (Dr Stephen Christley). In addition, 2 new members were appointed to the Board (Prof Nancy Cromar and Chris Stathy OAM).
On 22 March, the Hon David Speirs MP became South Australia’s Minister for Environment and Water whose roles includes responsibility for the EPA.
The EPA welcomed several positive outcomes in the ERD Court during 2018.
In the first of its kind, a 36-year-old-man from Broken Hill was convicted for presenting beverage containers to a collection depot in an attempt to claim a refund. The man pleaded guilty to the charge, was fined a total of $4,800 and also ordered to forfeit approximately 45,000 beverage containers to the EPA.
During the year a company was convicted and sentenced in the ERD Court for transporting more than 1 tonne of unwrapped and unsealed non-friable asbestos in an open-topped truck trailer to its depot and operating its yard as a waste depot without a licence, and a waste operation was sentenced for failing to comply with its EPA licence regulation.
In May 2018, the Minister for Planning approved the development application by Flinders Ports to widen the Outer Harbor channel and swing basin, subject to 8 conditions. The EPA required Flinders Ports to use the best available modern dredging methods to reduce the impact on the environment and loss of seagrass.
As a result, the proposed methodology was predicted to reduce the area of total seagrass loss by up to 82% compared to the original proposal, with seagrass loss being limited to the channel area being dredged and an area adjacent to the channel. The community was consulted on the proposal and the project generated a substantial amount of interest.
The EPA commenced a dust study in Hallett Cove and the Lonsdale Industrial precinct working collaboratively with residents.
The EPA released South Australia’s State of the Environment Report 2018 which made a number of recommendations to help safeguard South Australia’s environment, with a strong focus on preparing for changing climate.
The EPA started the year with a review of the Container Deposit Scheme inviting feedback on the scoping paper, Improving South Australia’s Recycling Makes Cents. The paper and summary launched the public conversation about opportunities to improve the scheme.
In early 2019, public interest remained high regarding the dredging of the Outer Harbour shipping channel by Flinders Ports. On 12 March 2019, the EPA announced that after a comprehensive community consultation period, it had issued an environmental licence and Flinders Ports undertook the dredging activities from 7 June to 18 September 2019.
On 5 April, the EPA announced that houseboat owners will be able to install cheaper and simpler greywater systems on board their vessels under updated requirements of the Code of practice for vessel and facility management (marine and inland waters). Under the new requirements, greywater from galley sinks can be contained on board, then pumped to land for disposal due to its potential to carry pathogens, and materials such as oil, grease, waste solids and detergents.
In the ERD Court, a South Australian demolition and asbestos contractor received a record fine for operating an illegal waste depot, a skip bin operator convicted and fined $21,000 in the ERD Court for receiving and storing asbestos without an EPA licence, and a father and son were fined a total of $31,400 in the ERD Court over charges relating to an illegal waste depot at Churchill Rd, Cavan.
The Victoria Road Air Quality Study commenced in July, which is a community co-design project being undertaken by the City of Port Adelaide Enfield and the EPA, with the location of air quality sensors being chosen by the community with advice from both EPA and SA Health.
The study monitored outdoor air to analyse air quality and emissions from traffic on Victoria Road and the surrounding residential areas. It looked at how air quality may vary along the road, how far into the residential areas it goes, and how it may be affected by variations in weather conditions.
In August 4 monitoring stations were located in the Lonsdale and Hallett Cove areas, the sites chosen by the community working with our air quality scientists. The monitoring stations collect real-time air quality data and community members also contributed by uploading their own observations, photos and videos using an online reporting tool.
Using bore water was prohibited in parts of Hendon, Royal Park, Seaton and Albert Park from 12 September 2019 due to chemical contamination. Residents in 2,800 homes in Adelaide’s western suburbs were notified of the Groundwater Prohibition Area (GPA).
Devastating bushfires began on 20 December 2019 across the state, with 6 major fires at Cudlee Creek, Gawler (including Angle Vale), Lameroo, Yorke Peninsula near Maitland, Keilara (South East) and Kangaroo Island. 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. EPA officers were stationed in Kangaroo Island during the fires to support local council with waste disposal advice and also provide specialist advice on the impacts to local water quality.
On 15 March, the SA Premier declared the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency. Since this time, the EPA has been working to ensure it maintains its business functions, while also protecting the health of its workforce. The EPA is currently working with its licensees to provide advice and support where possible.