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EPA Board visits Port Pirie
On 9 and 10 May the EPA Board visited Port Pirie to meet with industry and community representatives and hold its monthly meeting.
The Board and members of the EPA Executive toured the Nyrstar smelter and were briefed by the staff about the current operations and its significant plans for the site.
The board also met with staff from the Targeted Lead Abatement Program and discussed its role in reducing the impact of blood lead levels in children.
Board members and EPA staff with Nyrstar representatives touring the Port Pirie
A stakeholder forum enabled community leaders to raise important local issues, including the EPA’s regulation of Nyrstar and what might be considered in its licence renewal this year. There was recognition at this forum of the work done by the EPA and Nyrstar and a commitment to continue to inform the community about the licensing approach.
EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli said the board recognised that Nyrstar’s facility was one of the EPA’s most important regulated sites.
“Everyone’s aim is to continue reducing lead emissions as much as possible and introduce measures to ensure these can be sustained into the future,” he said.
Dairy farm visits
EPA environmental science and impact assessment officers recently visited dairy farms in the state’s South East.
The EPA has been dealing with an increase in local government referrals of development applications for dairy farm upgrades as the industry considers opportunities to expand.
While the EPA does not licence dairy farms, their operators must adhere to the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 and the Code of Practice for Milking Shed Effluent.
Senior Environment Protection Officer Dave Palmer taking water samples
for further testing.
The EPA officers discussed the importance of effective effluent management systems and environmental outcomes with dairy farmers looking to expand dairy production.
They also collected water samples from raw and treated effluent ponds and sent them for independent laboratory analysis.
This will help determine differences in water quality parameters between raw milking shed effluent and effluent that had been passed through a screw press treatment process, which is designed to remove solids from the effluent. The results from this data will help the EPA assess nutrient and water balances of dairy farm operations.
The cost of using unlicensed waste depots
A civil engineering and construction company will pay $500,000 for the clean-up of unlicensed depots where it delivered waste.
SEM Utilities has been convicted in the Environment, Resources and Development Court of two counts of causing an environmental nuisance and fined a total of $12,600 for offences under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
The additional $500,000 payment will be held in trust by the Environment Protection Authority for the owners to access for remediation of the sites at Penfield and Direk.
The first count in the prosecution by the EPA involved SEM delivering more than 35,000 tonnes of concrete, bitumen, brick, pavers, rubble and soil from its commercial operations between September 2017 and April 2018 to a site at Pellew Rd, Penfield.
In early 2018 this site was closed after intervention by the EPA.
The second count involved the delivery of 42,000 tonnes of waste between April 2018 and April 2019 to a site at Helps Rd, Direk.
Both sites were operated by D&J Holdings Pty Ltd and Kevin Green and neither had the required EPA licence. The prosecution of these operators is continuing.
All licensed waste and recycling depots are listed on the EPA website.
Penalty for fuel spill
BP Shipping Limited has agreed to pay a civil penalty of more than $48,000 over a hose failure that caused a jet fuel spill at Largs Bay.
The UK-registered company will pay a total of $65,319 for the penalty and technical expenses, plus almost $11,000 for legal costs.
The February 2020 spill led to multiple public complaints to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) about odours and health effects from the fumes, and the EPA said the company had not taken all reasonable steps to prevent the hose failure.
EPA Chief Executive Tony Circelli said an assessment of the incident by an independent environmental consultant had supported the impacts reported by the 16 people who complained or made reports to the EPA.
“After an investigation the EPA was satisfied that BP Shipping Limited had caused material environmental harm through the odours from the spilled fuel affecting the community,” Mr Circelli said.
The BP Shipping vessel British Engineer was moored at the Australian Terminals Operations Management Terminal at Largs Bay, transferring Jet A-1 fuel to the Mobil onshore terminal on 29 February 2020.
The pressurised liquid chemical hose failed at the British Engineer’s discharge point, sending an unknown quantity of fuel onto the deck of the vessel and into the Port River.
The EPA negotiated a civil penalty as an alternative to criminal prosecution.
The failed pressurised liquid chemical hose.
Clearing the air on traffic emissions
The completion of a significant air quality study on the Le Fevre Peninsula demonstrates the importance of community involvement when dealing with environmental issues.
The community panel formed for the Victoria Road Air Quality Study recently presented its report to City of Port Adelaide Enfield elected members.
The project – a partnership between the council and the EPA – was established in response to community concerns about the health impacts of traffic-related emissions.
Victoria Road is the main arterial road on the peninsula and is a key freight route. The region is home to industrial and commercial activities, port and defence facilities and residential areas, and traffic volumes have grown over time.
Community representatives collaborated on the study from the outset, and an independent facilitator managed the co-design process used to work with the group.
The process included the creation of the community panel, which had input into the selection of the 6 air quality monitoring sites. Six community members were joined by scientific advisers from the EPA and SA Health, as well as project support staff from the council and local ward councillors as observers.
EPA Director Science and Systems Keith Baldry said the findings of the study indicated that air quality was generally good on the peninsula. It found that transport-related emissions such as particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less (PM2.5) were mostly below the national maximum standard, except during the winter when the combination of wood heater smoke and weather conditions resulted in poorer air quality.
Overall concentrations of measured pollutants were similar to those observed in other parts of metropolitan Adelaide.
“Monitoring began in March 2020 and was completed in May 2021,” Mr Baldry said.
“The start of the study coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic so there was less traffic during the lockdowns of the first few months. The study was therefore extended by several months.”
The study monitored outdoor air to analyse air quality and emissions from traffic on Victoria Road and the surrounding residential areas. Data from the monitors was streamed on the EPA website.
“One of the outcomes of the process is that a collaborative model has been developed that can be used in future for monitoring air quality in partnership with key operators and communities,” Mr Baldry said.
EPA advising on groundbreaking medical project
The EPA is working with the developer of an Australian-first medical treatment centre to manage the radiation safety and regulatory aspects of the project.
The EPA is responsible for regulating the safety of medical radiation facilities. This includes radiation safety for workers, patients and the public, as well as environmental safety.
The Australian Bragg Centre for Proton Therapy and Research on North Terrace in Adelaide will be Australia’s first.
Proton therapy is a precise, non-invasive radiotherapy that can destroy cancer cells with high-energy, positively charged particles (protons), while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue including vital organs. The technology could enable life-saving therapy for patients with currently ‘inoperable’ cancers.
The protons will be sent to treatment rooms through large gantries able to deliver the beam over a 180-degree angle with millimetre accuracy. The giant apparatus will be housed in three stories of the new building.
The centre is now under construction and is expected to be completed in 2023. The proton therapy machine will then undergo 12 to 18 months of installation and testing before patient treatment begins.
EPA officers Kavitha Srinivasan and Artem Borysenko have specialist skills in the technical aspects of proton therapy and will be involved with approving and regulating the new technology.
South East dredging begins
Major dredging works to clear sand and seagrass from the harbour at Port MacDonnell began in late March.
The EPA has licensed the Department for Infrastructure and Transport’s (DIT) contractor, Maritime Constructions, to undertake the work.
The department was required to consult with the District Council of Grant and the local community to ensure the work met community expectations.
The work is needed to ensure the safety of the harbour, boat ramp and mooring areas.
The project will include the removal of about 20,000 cubic metres of material at the harbour entrance and mooring grounds. About half is seagrass and algal material that has built up in the channel and the rest is sand that has built up at the entrance to the harbour.
The organic materials are being screened, drained and transported to the adjacent western beach. Sand dredged from the harbour entrance will be deposited for replenishment of sandy beaches east of the harbour. The newly developed screening container was trialled in late March and is being redesigned to make it more efficient.
The offshore dredge runs a pipe to the shore, where the seagrass is screened and drained before being removed by truck.
The EPA’s regulatory involvement in dredging is usually to ensure the protection of seagrass and algal cover. It has required DIT to undertake every possible action to reduce the impact of the dredging on marine life and seagrass, and to implement the most environmentally sustainable dredging methodology.
The nature and amount of decomposing organic material in the channel meant the seagrass could not be discharged offshore because it could not be guaranteed that the hydrogen sulphides created from the decomposition would not affect the near-shore environment and the crayfish industry.
More information is available from DIT.
EPA closely monitoring the Old Red Brick Co site
The EPA is working with Belington Pty Ltd, trading as Old Red Brick Company, on a plan to remove stockpiled material from the company’s site at Beverley.
EPA staff from the regulatory and engagement teams have been involved with the project and have worked to ensure that the material will be remediated at a more suitable site and will be reused and not sent to landfill.
Non-friable asbestos was discovered in the material in December 2021 and the plan now is to move it to the company’s site at Gillman for remediation.
The EPA has agreed on a plan that includes dust and noise management and engagement with the Beverley community.
Air monitoring for asbestos will be carried out when the asbestos-containing material is being removed.
Environment protection orders will remain in place until the affected material is removed, which is expected to have been completed by the end of June this year.
The EPA continues to monitor the site and undertake regular inspections for compliance.
Unauthorised depot shut down
The EPA was recently granted a court order to restrain D&J Holdings Pty Ltd and its manager, Kevin Green, from operating an unauthorised waste recovery or landfill depot.
They were prohibited by the Environment, Resources and Development Court from receiving waste at 542 Waterloo Corner Road, Burton, or any other site.
In addition to writing to more than 50 customers they have dealt with or received waste from, the company and Mr Green must display signs at the entrance to the property to advise that the site is closed and that penalties could apply to anyone depositing waste there.
“No approvals for the operation of a waste recovery facility, waste reprocessing facility, or a landfill depot at this site have been obtained from the Environment Protection Authority,” the signs must read.
Disobeying the order may constitute contempt of court, for which an offender may be liable to imprisonment, a fine or other punishment. Anyone who knows of the orders and does anything that helps or permits the company or Mr Green to disobey these orders may be similarly penalised.
In seeking the order, the EPA alleged that at no time had the company or Mr Green held a licence under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to undertake a prescribed activity of environmental significance.
Treaty on mercury
The Minamata Convention on Mercury came into effect on 7 March 2022, as part of a global move to protect humans and the environment from the effects of the toxic heavy metal.
Existing legislation and policies in South Australia already restrict mercury exposure from industrial activity, but the new restrictions and prohibitions on mercury or mercury compounds will be an important consideration for new proposals and developments.
Changes at existing facilities like smelting and roasting of non-ferrous metals, waste incineration, cement clinker production and coal-fired industrial boilers will all now be considered in the context of meeting the convention commitments.
Major highlights of the convention include:
- a ban on new mercury mines
- phasing out the use of mercury in some products and processes
- control measures on emissions into air and on releases to land and water from point sources
- regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold miners.
The EPA will be working with businesses and planning authorities to explain how they might be affected.
Planning authorities will need to be aware which activities are restricted and prohibited under the convention, in relation to new developments.
Mercury persists in the environment once released and can travel large distances in oceans and the atmosphere, even in remote locations.
In people and animals it can harm the immune system at low levels, and can affect the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs.
The Minamata Convention addresses the life cycle of mercury from its entry into the environment in products or emissions from industrial processes, through to waste management and storage.
More information can be found online on the EPA website.
If you have questions about how your facility needs to comply with the Minamata Convention, email or call 8204 2004.
Adapting to climate change
The EPA released its first position statement on its role in climate change adaptation last month.
It includes a clear and robust regulatory framework to help businesses become more resilient, prepare for more frequent extreme weather events and reduce waste to enable the advantages of a more circular economy.
A circular economy that keeps material resources in use for as long as possible can reduce dependence on new raw materials, reduce waste and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The statement outlines the action the EPA will take to help licensees build resilience in adapting to climate change.
Protecting the environment from the effects of climate change.
The EPA is working with businesses licensed under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to help them understand climate change risk and liabilities. It will prioritise licences exposed to climate-related changes for review and/or support.
The EPA will continue to focus effort on a clear, transparent and robust regulatory framework that incentivises innovation to reduce waste and encourage greater reuse and recycling of materials.
The EPA role statement sets out how it will support adaptation to 2025, contributing to the State Government Climate Change Action Plan.
World Water Day – Groundwater: making the invisible visible
South Australians rely on groundwater, yet many of us know little about this hidden – and valuable – source of water.
In marking World Water Day on 22 March 2022, the United Nations reminded all water users of the need to sustainably manage groundwater, which comprises most of the planet’s liquid fresh water.
Groundwater is found in underground aquifers, which in South Australia range from local bores to the Blue Lake at Mount Gambier. Australia’s largest aquifer is the Great Artesian Basin, which sits underneath about 20 per cent of the continent and half of South Australia.
SA's Blue Lake is fed by underground aquifers.
The EPA monitors and reports on groundwater quality as part of its work to protect South Australian waters from the adverse effects of pollution. It also regulates parties who have caused groundwater pollution through past chemical handling practices, and where there is no person considered liable, it undertakes this work to ensure communities are safe.
Meet some of our water scientists who monitors and assesses groundwater pollution.
Additional groundwater sampling at Woodville
The EPA is conducting further groundwater assessments at Woodville to establish the extent of a proposed groundwater prohibition area.
Work is planned to begin in mid-March 2022 and will provide additional seasonal information about groundwater in the area, which is focused on a site on Port Road that carried out electroplating between 1950 and 1990.
The EPA has been communicating with residents and businesses and undertaking environmental assessments in the area since May 2019.
In October 2019 the EPA advised that, as a result of the former industrial activities, groundwater (bore water) was contaminated with hexavalent chromium (CrVI) and per- and poly- fluroalkyl substances (PFAS) and should not be used for any purpose.
The chemicals are not a health risk to residents unless they are using bore water.
When this assessment is complete the EPA will provide another update and undertake community consultation on the proposal to establish a groundwater prohibition area.
More information is available at the EPA website, including previous community updates and a map.
EPA staff checking the groundwater wells in streets of Woodville.
Company and director convicted over asbestos offences
An Adelaide company and one of its directors have been convicted and fined for causing environmental harm over the dislodging of asbestos fibres from the roof of a building.
Aurora Property Investments, which owns the building at 7 Portrush Rd, Payneham, and one of its directors, Mr Alex Panas, had each pleaded guilty to one count of causing material environmental harm and one count of failure to notify the Environment Protection Authority.
In the Environment, Resources and Development Court, Aurora was fined a total of $24,000 and Mr Panas $12,000, plus $1,030 for EPA costs. They will also pay the $60,000 cost incurred by the EPA for decontamination, clean-up and monitoring.
It is vital that anyone dealing with asbestos seeks professional advice or visits the SA government asbestos website.
Good Life Gym was cordened off when asbestos fibres were dislodged from its roof.
Prohibition on PFAS-contaminated groundwater
The EPA has established a Groundwater Prohibition Area (GPA) for parts of Edinburgh, Direk, Burton, Salisbury North, Penfield, Paralowie and Waterloo Corner to prevent residents and workers from accessing contaminated groundwater.
Environmental assessments undertaken by the Australian Government’s Department of Defence determined that groundwater in shallow aquifers in these areas has been contaminated by per-and-poly fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The GPA came into effect on 3 February 2022 and prohibits people from taking and using groundwater from aquifers up to 60 metres below ground.
Prohibition depths of up to 60 metres
PFAS are manufactured chemicals that were used in a range of industrial and consumer products from the 1950s, including some types of firefighting foam.
They are a potential health risk if people use bore water in the affected area over a long period of time. Using bore water for drinking, showering, washing, filling swimming pools or watering lawns, or fruit and vegetables for consumption is therefore considered a health risk.
Defence’s environmental investigation looked at the presence of PFAS on and near RAAF Base Edinburgh. There are about 4000 residential, commercial and other properties in the GPA.
Soil, mains water and rainwater are not affected. Home-grown vegetables are safe to consume provided they are not being watered by water from bores to a depth of 60 metres.
An interactive map of the area showing prohibition depths can be viewed on the Engage EPA website. It enables residents and property owners to view the area in relation to their property.
Old Red Brick Company, Beverley
The EPA is enforcing compliance issues with the owners of Old Red Brick Company, including through the Environment, Resources and Development Court, in relation to activity on unlicensed land, community complaints about dust, and the presence of asbestos in material stockpiles at the Beverley site.
A total of 3 environment protection orders have been issued since September 2021. They required the company to stop receiving, processing and storing construction and demolition waste on an unlicensed lot, and to apply a sealant to stockpiles on both its licensed and unlicensed premises.
The company was also required to develop a plan to manage and remove the asbestos-contaminated waste.
Aerial view of the Old Red Brick Company site
To provide greater assurance to residents, the EPA engaged an environmental consultant to provide independent air monitoring. The results concluded that no airborne asbestos fibres were detectable during the monitoring period.
The company has appealed the orders and the matters have been before the ERD Court, with a further hearing scheduled this month.
The company’s EPA licence to operate a waste recovery facility expired on 31 January and was renewed for 1 year only, providing greater flexibility for the EPA to ensure timely operational improvements and compliance at the site.
More assessment work at Melrose Park
The boundary of the groundwater assessment area at Melrose Park has been expanded to the north and more work is being undertaken from this month.
This work will add to the existing groundwater and soil vapour well network to see how far the contamination extends. This will determine whether a groundwater prohibition area should be established, subject to community consultation.
The contamination was discovered by the Department for Infrastructure and Transport during road upgrade investigations. It comes from chlorinated hydrocarbons, including trichloroethene (TCE) at levels that exceed drinking water criteria. TCE is a volatile chemical that can be transported in groundwater and as vapour in the air spaces between soil particles.
The EPA began environmental assessment work in the area in March 2021 and 2 stages of work have found that indoor air contamination is not likely.
Environmental contractors conducting groundwater and soil vapour testing
Bore water in the area should not be used for any purpose. More information and a map showing the assessment area can be found on the EPA website.
Celebrating EPA women in science
The United Nations marked International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February, recognising them as 'agents of change' in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
“Science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” the UN said in a statement.
The EPA is acknowledging some of its women in science as part of this international focus.
Senior Environment Protection Officer Louise Craddock uses her skills and qualifications to help licensees and the community make environmental improvements.
With a science degree majoring in environmental management, she worked for Primary Industries and Regions SA and SA Police before moving to the EPA.
“There is a large amount of community and licensee interaction, which means seeing many interesting industries and learning a lot about how they work. This includes meeting many different people who run these industries and seeing some amazing things,” she said.
Scientific officer Ying He works on Geographic Information System (GIS) applications in environmental management and catchment modelling in water quality management.
With a PhD in GIS, she uses new technology to turn data into information.
“I am currently developing a StoryMap for our Water Science Strategic Plan using a new ArcGIS online tool - StoryMaps builder,” she said. “The new tool integrates custom maps, photos, and videos to enhance our digital storytelling.”
For senior environment protection officer Paris Bates, a day at work could involve assessing development applications, site inspections or office-based project work.
“I like to think that the smallest of improvements accumulate over time and space to improve the health of the environment. Every day I am able to contribute to these small improvements,” she said.
Paris has a Bachelor of Science in Biodiversity and Conservation and plans to take on a master’s degree.