New contamination guidelines in South Australia

By Claire Smith, Nicole Besgrove

16 Aug 2018

The legislative and policy approach to risk-based assessment and remediation of site contamination in South Australia will now be supported by a suite of new guidance documents.

After four years of consultation, the South Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) released the four key documents on 27 July 2018 to provide guidance on the risk-based assessment and remediation of site contamination. In addition to the release of these guidance documents, the EPA will be offering training sessions to anyone with the responsibility for site contamination.

Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination

Assessment of site contamination at a site may be triggered by any number of circumstances, including a change in land ownership, a proposed change of use to a more sensitive use, where the development approval process is required for a proposed development, a regulatory requirement of the EPA or a due diligence assessment. Where triggered, assessment of site contamination in accordance with the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act) and the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (ASC NEPM) will be required. This will be done by a site contamination consultant and/or site contamination auditor.

The Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination have been prepared for site contamination consultants, certified practitioners and site contamination auditors undertaking the assessment and remediation of site contamination to assist with:

  • the determination of the existence of site contamination using EPA recognised criteria;
  • the assessment and identification of the environmental values of water (groundwater) using a four-step process;
  • the determination of when to notify of site contamination that affects or threatens underground water (section 83A of the EP Act);
  • the identification of matters that represent hazardous circumstances, with respective timeframes for the management of such matters;
  • undertaking the assessment of site contamination in general accordance with the ASC NEPM (as amended in 2013);
  • the determination of when a site contamination audit is required for a site based on the existence of site contamination and land use at a site, and offsite receptors;
  • the preparation of a remediation strategy to address remediation goals, objectives and endpoints for a site;
  • the determination of what type of remediation technology or method is appropriate for a site, using a process to assist in the preparation of a remediation options assessment;
  • the management and protection of the environment when undertaking assessment and remediation; and
  • undertaking effective community engagement and risk communication for site contamination matters.

This guideline supersedes and replaces a number of guidelines and information sheets previously published by the EPA. The EPA regulation for the application of the guideline will commence on 1 October 2018.

Guideline for the assessment of background concentrations

The Guideline for the assessment of background concentrations is to be read in conjunction with the Guidelines for the assessment and remediation of site contamination, and used by site contamination consultants, site contamination auditors and certified site contamination practitioners.

This guideline provides the method for carrying out assessments of the presence of chemical substances in the vicinity of a site, so as to determine background concentrations of chemical substances on a site or below its surface to assess whether site contamination exists on the site as prescribed by the EP Act.

Site contamination policy: certification of practitioners (EPA 838/18)

The aim of this policy is to prevent poor quality assessment and other issues associated with persons acting as a site contamination practitioner (or site contamination consultant) without possessing the necessary qualifications or experience.

This policy requires the establishment of certification bodies and schemes, and the use of certified practitioners in South Australia for the assessment of site contamination. It provides the approach for how and when the EPA will recognise bodies that certify persons as certified practitioners.

The policy implements the following upon its commencement:

  • minimum standards for recognition as a certification body for site contamination practitioners;
  • registration and professional conduct of certified practitioners; and
  • process for recognition of certification bodies.

Given that time will be required to allow for certification bodies/schemes to seek recognition by the EPA and to allow persons to seek certification to recognised schemes, there is a12-month transition period for the commencement of the policy (ie. until 1 August 2019) to allow for certification bodies and site contamination practitioners to meet all aspects of this policy.

Information sheet: site contamination consultant (EPA 665/18)

A site contamination consultant is engaged to assess or remediate a site where site contamination exists or where there is a reasonable suspicion of site contamination which:

  • has resulted from a known potentially contaminating activity occurring on that site; and
  • poses a potential risk to human health or the environment.

The purpose of this information sheet is to update the previous 2014 version and provide guidance when selecting a site contamination consultant for the assessment and remediation of site contamination in South Australia.

Information is provided on where a site contamination consultant can be found, the competencies, qualifications and experience which the consultant needs to possess and the approach which should be taken when selecting and engaging such a consultant.

If you would like any further information on the new guidance documents or site contamination more generally, please contact us.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.