The EPA Monitor is a monthly newsletter produced by the Communication and Media Branch. Please subscribe to receive regular updates.
EPA launches Reconciliation Action Plan
The EPA Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2021–22 (RAP) was launched on Wednesday 17 March, by Chief Executive Tony Circelli.
The RAP highlights the EPA’s commitment to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to maintain, protect and celebrate their culture, language, land and heritage in South Australia.
The EPA recognises the Original Custodians of South Australia’s lands, water, plants and animals, and that Country is central to the social, cultural, spiritual lives and identify of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The EPA Reconciliation Working Group with guest Ian Liddy (3rd from left), EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli and guest Isaac Hannam, at the launch of the EPA Reconciliation Action Plan
The EPA is committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to implement the RAP, which outlines 14 actions that work towards achieving the EPA’s unique vision for reconciliation over the next two years.
The Innovate RAP is guided by three key pillars – Relationships, Respect, and Opportunities – and will assist in promoting a positive culture internally which celebrates reconciliation within the EPA, further drive positive organisational change, and strengthen the frequency and quality of the EPA’s engagement with Aboriginal communities.
The RAP builds on the EPA’s existing work with Aboriginal communities developed as part of the previous Reconciliation Action Plan and identifies future opportunities to engage and work with Aboriginal peoples to protect and restore our environment for future generations.
Photo: “Caring for Country” artwork by Scott Rathman which was commissioned to illustrate the EPA Reconciliation Action Plan. It depicts land, air and water with the centre representing the coming together of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to share knowledge about country which contributes to the building of new relationships and strengthens old ones.
Easier access to real time air quality data
It is now easier for people to access and understand real time air quality data thanks to a new webpage launched by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The new webpage allows users to identify the location of air quality monitors on an interactive map as well as provide access to air quality information including data on concentrations of pollutants.
EPA CE Executive Tony Circelli said the new webpage will make it easier for people to access and interpret real-time air quality data, particularly during major events impacting air quality such as bushfires, dust events, or photochemical smog events.
EPA scientific officer Sam Rice checking data at the Netley Air Quality Monitoring Station
“The new interactive webpage is a big improvement on the table-based format we previously presented air quality data in online and follows an extensive review of how we could improve air quality reporting to meet the needs of the South Australian community.
“The initiative also follows an EPA commitment to make our operations more open and transparent and provide more timely information on environmental incidents to communities and the public.
“Since making that commitment the EPA has revamped its website, released radiation licence data on its Public Register and released online groundwater contamination records in map form.
“The new air quality webpage will be much easier for people to navigate as by simply hovering their mouse over an interactive map they will be able to read and interpret air quality readings at nine different monitoring stations in Adelaide and around the state.
“Providing faster and easier access to air quality data during events such as bushfires, industrial fires, dust and smog events is vitally important for people who are managing respiratory and other conditions.
“The design of the new webpage also adopts nationally consistent air quality categories and associated public health messages.”
Poultry industry to be licensed from 1 April
From 1 April 2021 South Australian poultry farms (broiler) will be required to apply for a licence from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
This requirement brings the poultry industry into line with other intensive farming industries such as cattle feedlots and piggeries, which have similar potential environmental impacts.
EPA Director Regulation Peter Dolan said licensing of poultry farms enables the EPA to set conditions and regulate potential environmental impacts such as odour, waste, wastewater or contaminated stormwater run-off, and noise pollution.
“The EPA advised poultry farm operators in April 2020 that they would require a licence once poultry farms were added to the list of activities of environmental significance requiring EPA authorisation – and this occurred in December,” Mr Dolan said.
“Poultry farm (broiler) operators who grow poultry meat where the total area of the sheds or structures used to keep the poultry is 13,500 square metres or more will require an EPA licence.
“Poultry includes chicken, turkey, guinea fowl, duck, geese, pheasants, quail, squab (pigeons), muttonbirds or other avian species.
“Holding an EPA licence will give the poultry industry regulatory certainty and clarity about their obligations.
“Licensing fees have been set to reflect the amount of effort required by the EPA to regulate potential environmental impacts.”
Poultry farmers will be able to apply for a licence online from 1 April 2021. Licences will be issued for a period of five years, after which time the licence will be renewed.
In most circumstances, standard licence conditions will be set for poultry farm licensees who are ensuring that all reasonable practices are being taken to minimise risk to the environment. The EPA will focus its attention according to risk, which will promote a more level playing-field for environmental management for the sector.
Further information is available on the EPA website or contact 8204 2004.
Groundwater prohibition area for Tonsley and surrounds
The EPA will establish a Groundwater Prohibition Area (GPA) in Tonsley, and parts of Mitchell Park, Clovelly Park and Marion to prevent residents and workers from accessing contaminated groundwater.
Groundwater in these areas is contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons, petroleum hydrocarbons, PFAS, heavy metals and cyanide from past industrial activities.
The GPA will come into effect on April 8 and will prohibit people from drawing and using bore water from shallow aquifers less than 25 metres deep.
Deeper uncontaminated aquifers, such as those used by councils, are exempt from this prohibition.
The EPA has written to impacted residents and landowners to advise them that the GPA will be established, and this follows a 90-day community consultation period.
EPA Director Regulation, Peter Dolan said using contaminated bore water for drinking, showering, washing, filling swimming pools, watering lawns or irrigating edible produce over a long period of time would be a health risk for people in the affected area.
“Tonsley and surrounding suburbs have had significant commercial, industrial and manufacturing activities in the past, and unfortunately chemicals were disposed of by tipping them onto the ground.
“At the time it was thought the chemicals would evaporate, but we now know they migrate through the ground and contaminate groundwater.”
From 8 April 2021, extracting groundwater (bore water) from the Pooraka Formation aquifer (5–6 m below ground level) and Upper Hindmarsh Clay Quaternary aquifer (8–23 m below ground level) will be prohibited. A maximum fine of $8,000 may be issued if bore water is extracted from these aquifers.
Further information, including a map of the impacted area is available at: www.engage.epa.sa.gov.au/Tonsley
EPA scientists survey suspended sediment in marine environment
EPA scientists get out along Adelaide’s metropolitan coastline twice a season to capture and examine organisms and suspended sediments which ultimately provide data to help guide future management of the marine environment.
The work along the metropolitan coast is carried out twice every season over a 12 month period, (once at high tide and once at low tide each season), with seston traps deployed at Largs Bay, Grange, Brighton and Moana, in both vegetated and non-vegetated habitat.
The data from this study will better inform the limitations to seagrass recovery along the metropolitan Adelaide coastline and potentially demonstrate the role seagrass meadows play in reducing resuspension of sediments.
EPA Water Quality Scientist Matt Nelson said seagrasses are an important indicator of coastal health but have been greatly degraded along the Adelaide coastline by nutrient and sediment discharges from wastewater treatment plants and industry, as well as stormwater.
“Seagrass meadows play a number of important roles; they are nursery grounds for both commercially and recreationally important fish and crustacean species, sediment stabilisers and carbon sinks.
EPA scientific officer Natan Noel retrieving seston traps from Adelaide’s metro coastline.
“Over the last 20 years there has been a substantial reduction in nutrients discharged to nearshore environments from wastewater and industry, and now we believe the biggest factor potentially impacting nearshore habitats is fine sediment discharged from land-based sources, primarily through urban stormwater, that are constantly being re-suspended with wind and wave action.
“The joint research being undertaken by EPA and SA Water scientists will help us identify the land-use sources contributing most to sediment exports, and how these may be better managed.
“Ultimately we want to improve the water quality conditions that are required to best protect and provide for the restoration of seagrasses.”
State Government steps up on mangroves
As part of a coordinated State Government response, efforts are being stepped up to prevent further harm to the St Kilda mangroves.
The State Government has installed additional pumps to accelerate the movement of hyper-saline water away from the mangroves adjacent to the Dry Creek salt fields. This will complement activity being undertaken by Buckland Dry Creek (BDC), following directions previously issued by the Department for Energy and Mining.
Water regression in one of the salt ponds at the Dry Creek Saltfields. Photo courtesy of DEM.
The additional pumping activity has been made possible through a Clean Up Authorisation (CUA) under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
The CUA follows successful government trials of new pumping equipment at the site and enables Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Authorised Officers to undertake water pumping on the salt field site and to recover costs from BDC.
The additional pumps will accelerate the movement of water away from the western side of the highest risk ponds closest to the mangrove environment, moving water southwards to relieve pressure on the more severely impacted areas of vegetation.
Government remains focused on stopping further impact on the mangroves, promoting conditions for recovery of the affected areas, and establishing long-term environmental stability for the mangrove and wider ecosystem.
Productivity Commission Inquiry into SA’s regulatory framework
The South Australian Government has asked the South Australia Productivity Commission (SAPC) to report on the modernisation of South Australia’s regulatory framework to better support investment, employment and productivity growth.
The inquiry will consider how to make the development of regulations and regulator behaviour more efficient, effective and future oriented.
The inquiry is part of SAPC Modern Regulation Project that also includes a program of regulatory reviews into specific areas of regulation affecting key economic processes or sectors.
The Commission received the terms of reference from the government on Friday, 29 January 2021.
State Government acts to stop mangrove dieback
The State Government is taking action to arrest the dieback of hectares of mangroves and saltmarsh near the St Kilda boardwalk, while experts continue to work to understand the cause of the issue and consider actions to mitigate the movement of hypersaline water into saltmarsh and mangrove habitats.
The Department for Energy and Mining (DEM) has issued 3 environmental directions to Buckland Dry Creek (BDC), the company which occupies the site.
Buckland Dry Creek has been directed to stop further pumping of new water to the affected area, to address a seepage issue at the Little Para River, and to remove the water from 7 km of pond south of St Kilda.
DEM reports that millions of litres of brine is being pumped out of the hyper-saline salt ponds and that the ponds at St Kilda are expected to be drained within weeks.
Removing hyper-saline water from the salt fields
DEM continues to work with BDC to see how the company can remove water at a faster rate.
The 30-km, 4,000-hectare site is complex and areas are interrelated. Managing all sections, including the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary, will be an important aspect of future remediation.
Community groups are providing useful input and DEM continues to provide public updates on the issue on their website.
The EPA continues to provide DEM with scientific support and expert advice.
DEM regulates the site under the Mining Act 1971 through the mining lease it holds with BDC.
BDC also has a licence under the Environment Protection Act 1993 for chemical storage and warehousing facilities, chemical works (salt production) and discharges to marine or inland waters, which is overseen by the EPA.
Ban on single-use plastics from 1 March 2021
South Australian legislation, banning the sale, supply and distribution of single-use plastics from 1 March 2021, is the first of its kind in Australia.
The Single-use and Other Plastic Products (Waste Avoidance) Act 2020 passed Parliament on 9 September 2020.
South Australia was also the first state to introduce deposits on beverage containers, and the first to ban lightweight plastic bags.
By avoiding waste and shifting to reusable or other more sustainable options, the ban on single-use plastics continues to demonstrate SA’s leadership in this space.
From Monday 1 March 2021 single-use plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers will be prohibited from sale, supply or distribution in South Australia. These single-use items can be replaced with reusable and compostable alternatives that do not contain plastic.
The ban applies to single-use plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers made from, or comprising, fossil fuel derived plastic or compostable plastic, which is designed to be used once, or a limited number of times, before being thrown away.
Exemptions will apply for single-use straws for people with a disability or medical need.
Oxo-degradable plastic products will also be banned from manufacture and production in South Australia. Oxo-degradable plastic products have additives which enable the plastic to break down into tiny fragments (or microplastics) rather than completely breaking down.
Green Industries SA and the EPA are working on activities to support implementation of the single-use plastics ban. This includes developing and consulting on regulations to implement exemptions, preparing guidance on the assessment of single-use prohibited plastic products and the ‘Replace the Waste’ education campaign.
The EPA is responsible for enforcing the single-use plastics ban and will respond to non-compliance by taking an educational approach initially, followed up, if necessary, with verbal and written warnings, expiations and prosecution.
From March 1, 2022 expanded polystyrene cups, bowls, plates and clamshell containers will also be banned.
Visit the Replace the Waste website and sign up for updates on South Australia’s single use plastic ban.
Radiation Protection and Control Act 2021 brings reform
The Radiation Protection and Control Act 2021 has been passed by Parliament, bringing significant reform and establishing a nation-leading framework to shift to a risk-based harms approach for the safe use of radiation.
The new Act implements national commitments made at the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference and the Council of Australian Governments to introduce a uniform national framework for radiation protection.
The Act will replace the 1982 act, and will continue to regulate activities involving radiation sources to ensure that people and the environment are protected from the harmful effects of radiation.
The Act introduces a general duty of care, a risk-based harms approach and establishes the offence of causing radiation harm. It introduces tools such as orders and expiations to enable more effective regulation.
It also reduces the administrative burden on small business through streamlining 7 separate licence categories down to 2 – a radiation use licence and a radiation management licence.
New Regulations will now be drafted to include a more risk-based approach to improve the EPA’s regulatory framework for the safe use of radiation.
The Radiation Protection Committee will provide advice on the Regulations. Once the Regulations are well progressed a decision on when the new Act will commence will be made.
The EPA regulates hospitals, dentists, veterinarians, soil analysis companies, mining companies, radiographers, radiologists, and ports under the legislation.
Port Adelaide Salvage withdraws appeal against licence suspension
A Port Adelaide demolition company has withdrawn an appeal against a suspension of its waste transport licence.
The EPA suspended Port Adelaide Salvage Pty’s transport licence for 3 years following a series of non-compliances with its licence conditions and breaches of the Environment Protection Act 1993.
EPA spokesperson Stephen Barry said the company’s authority to transport waste was suspended in October 2019 after it and its director Maurizio Corsaro operated an illegal waste depot at Highbury in 2012, and after its director operated an illegal waste depot at Houghton in 2015.
Mr Barry said the company was transporting asbestos that was not “appropriately wrapped or sealed”, putting the public’s health at risk.
“It was necessary to suspend Port Adelaide Salvage’s transport licence given the circumstances of previous and ongoing offending to protect the public and the environment,” he explained.
The suspension means Port Adelaide Salvage is not permitted to transport listed waste including asbestos during the suspension period which remains in place until 30 September 2022.
The EPA is currently investigating Port Adelaide Salvage over the alleged unlawful disposal of waste at two locations in Sedan, 100 km east of Adelaide.
Sunken yacht sparks community concern
The EPA received a number of community enquiries and complaints about diesel fumes after a yacht sank at Newport Quays Marina in January.
The EPA’s Emergency Response Team attended the site on several occasions along with staff from the Department for Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) who placed a boom and absorbent pads around the vessel to contain pollutants.
The EPA liaised with the marina management company and the vessel owner during the incident and reminded them of their environmental obligations.
Vessel owners have a responsibility under the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 not to discharge pollutants, and where this has occurred must take all reasonable and proactive measures to resolve the matter promptly in an environmentally responsible manner.
The marina management company was required to provide evidence (including photographs) to the EPA of the salvage in progress and upon completion, confirming that containment measures had been effective.
The EPA was satisfied that contaminants were contained throughout the salvage operation and while odours were present, they are not severe.