Robust scientific assessment of site contamination is essential to ensure adequate protection of human health and the environment.
The assessment of site contamination should be undertaken in accordance with the framework provided in the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (as amended 2013) or ASC NEPM. If site contamination exists, the provisions of Part 10A of the Environment Protection Act 1993 (the EP Act) apply.
Guidelines are a way of providing technical advice to industry or the community concerning specific issues. They are primarily advisory and assist people to interpret their general environmental duty and other obligations under the EP Act.
The EPA has published 3 key guidelines to assist professionals working in site contamination understand the expectations for work carried out in this field:
- Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination
- Guideline for the assessment of background concentrations
- Guideline for the assessment of underground storage systems
A number of other guidelines may also be applicable to professionals working in the site contamination field (see Further information).
Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination
The guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination have been prepared to reflect the developments and learnings related to the EPA’s regulation of site contamination since 2009, and aligns the assessment of site contamination with the EP Act and the ASC NEPM
They provide a step-wise processes for the determination of the existence of site contamination and the environmental values of groundwater at a site. The guidelines provide a framework for the remediation of site contamination in alignment with the EP Act, including remediation goals, objectives and endpoints for site closure.
These guidelines assist and support the EPA’s regulation of site contamination in accordance with the Regulatory and orphan site management framework (2017). EPA regulation for application of the guideline commenced on 1 October 2018.
Guideline for the assessment of background concentrations
The guideline has been prepared to establish the way in which assessments are to be carried out to determine background concentrations of chemical substances on a site or below its surface as set out in section 3 of the EP Act.
This guideline summaries the information necessary to determine background concentrations, including the relevance of the location of the activity. It provides a process of how to carry out assessments for background concentrations and recommends methods of sample collection in each environmental media, ie soil, groundwater, surface water, vapour and indoor air.
Guideline for the assessment of underground storage systems
The guideline has been prepared to ensure the assessment of site contamination associated with underground storage systems (USS) and related infrastructure is conducted to an appropriate standard in South Australia.
This guideline provide specific information to assist site contamination consultants and auditors, as well as site owners understand the EPA’s expectations for the assessment of site contamination at USS sites. They provide specific guidance on sampling frequency and location for the assessment of underground storage systems.
Application of national and international publications
The ASC NEPM provides a national risk-based framework for the staged or tiered assessment of site contamination in Australia. The assessment of site contamination in Australia should be undertaken in accordance with the ASC NEPM.
The EPA acknowledges that guidelines may not be exhaustive or applicable for all contexts – particularly in specialised or emerging fields. In some cases it may be appropriate to seek national or international guidelines to supplement the use of South Australian guidance.
National and international guidelines are not part of the legislative framework in South Australia. Prior to use and application of such publications that are not specifically referred to in EPA published guidelines, the EPA recommends that consultants and auditors understand the legislative background informing the publication.
Other relevant matters to consider include: the limitation of the publication to site-specific circumstances, the sources for the publication, the age of the publication and whether the publication is widely recognised as authoritative. Draft publications are generally not considered suitable for the purpose of risk-based decision making for the assessment and remediation of site contamination.
It is recommended that the EPA be consulted early if a site contamination professional intends to use national or international publications to inform site contamination assessment or remediation to ensure that the adopted approach will be recognised by the EPA.
- Regulation of site contamination
- National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (ASC NEPM)
- Guidelines for regulatory monitoring and testing – groundwater sampling
- Environmental management of landfill facilities
If you have any questions please contact the Site Contamination Branch on (08) 8204 9934.