Environment Protection Authority

Compliance Statement

The ACT Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Annual Report must comply with the 2015 Annual Report Directions (the Directions). The Directions are found at the ACT Legislation Register: www.legislation.act.gov.au/ni/annual/2015.asp

The Compliance Statement indicates the subsections, under the five Parts of the Directions, that are applicable to the ACT Environment Protection Authority Annual Report and the location of information that satisfies these requirements:

Part 1 Directions Overview

The requirements under Part 1 of the 2015 Directions relate to the purpose, timing and distribution, and records keeping of annual reports. The ACT Environment Protection Authority Annual Report complies with all subsections of Part 1 under the Directions.

In compliance with section 13 Feedback, Part 1 of the Directions, contact details for ACT EPA provided within the ACT Environment Protection Authority Annual Report to provide readers with the opportunity to provide feedback.

Part 2 Agency Annual Report Requirements

The requirements within Part 2 of the Directions are mandatory for all agencies and ACT Environment Protection Authority Annual Report complies with all subsections. The information that satisfies the requirements of Part 2 is found in the ACT Environment Protection Authority Annual Report as follows:

  • A. Transmittal Certificate, see page 280;
  • B. Organisational Overview and Performance, inclusive of all subsections, see page 282;
  • C. Financial Management Reporting, inclusive of all subsections, is contained within the CMTEDD Annual report.

Part 3 Reporting by Exception

The ACT EPA has nil information to report by exception under Part 3 of the Directions for the 2015‐16 reporting period.

Part 4 Agency Specific Annual Report Requirements

There are no specific annual report requirements for the ACT EPA.

Part 5 Whole of Government Annual Reporting

All subsections of Part 5 of the Directions apply to the ACT EPA. Consistent with the Directions, the information satisfying these requirements is reported in the one place for all ACT Public Service Directorates, as follows:

  • M. Community Engagement and Support, see the 2015‐16 Annual Report of Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate;
  • N. Justice and Community Safety, including all subsections R.1 – R.4, see the 2015‐16 Annual Report of the Justice and Community Safety Directorate;
  • O. Public Sector Standards and Workplace Profile, see the Commissioner for Public Administration State of the Service Annual Report; and
  • P. Territory Records, see the 2015‐16 Annual Report of Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic, Development Directorate.

ACT Public Service Directorate annual reports are found at the following web address: www.cmd.act.gov.au/open_government/report/annual_reports.

Legislative Framework and Functions

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is established by the Environment Protection Act 1997 (the EP Act). As a statutory position, the EPA is responsible for administering the EP Act. Within Access Canberra the Construction, Environment and Workplace Protection Division supports the EPA in administering regulatory functions of the EP Act and other legislation administered by the EPA.

The objectives of the EP Act include:

  • protecting and enhancing the quality of the environment;
  • prevent environmental degradation and risk of harm to human health;
  • achieve effective integration of environmental, economic and social consideration in decision-making processes;
  • establishing a single and integrated regulatory framework for environmental protection and provide for monitoring and reporting of environmental quality on a regular basis;
  • facilitating the implementation of national environment protection measures and laws;
  • ensuring contaminated land is managed having regard to human health and the environment; and
  • encouraging responsibility by the whole community for the environment – general environmental duty of care.

The EPA meets these objectives by working with the community, business and government agencies, granting environmental authorisations, promoting environmental awareness, entering into environmental protection agreements, developing guidance and policies with stakeholders and issuing notices, environment protection orders and a range of other legislative instruments.

Environment Protection Policy

The EPA in conjunction with the Environment and Planning Directorate develops environment protection policies (EPPs) and guidelines to help explain and apply the legislation it administers. These policies and guidelines help clarify and apply the regulations made under the legislation. There are currently eight EPPs in effect that cover a range of regulatory areas including air, noise, water quality, motor sport noise, outdoor concert noise, hazardous materials and contaminated sites. One EPP covers general administration of the EP Act.

Accredited Codes of Practice

Codes of practice are formal documents developed by particular industries and approved by the Minister. Codes set out ways of minimising environmental harm and ensuring compliance with the general environmental duty. Codes may be either specific to the particular activity or activities to which they relate, or may apply across an industry. There is one code accredited under the EP Act:

  • The ACT commercial waste industry has an accredited code of practice, developed in 1998, dealing with operating hours, maintenance of equipment and complaint handling procedures.

Environment Protection Act

Environmental Authorisations

An Environmental Authorisation (EA) is a form of licence granted under s. 49 of the EP Act. An EA sets out the conditions under which activities with a significant potential to cause environmental harm may be conducted. The number of authorisations is generally consistent with previous years. The EPA received and considered 55 applications for EAs during 2015–16. It currently administers a total of 312 EAs. All EAs are subject to review; EAs granted for an unlimited period are subject to review periods of up to five years based on a risk assessment of the activity and authorisation holder. There were 100 reviews of EAs during 2015-16.

Activity (Schedule 1 Class A of the Act) 2014–15 Authorisations 2015–16 Authorisations Current Authorisations
Controlled burns - - 2
Commercial incineration, sterilisation of clinical waste - - 1
Composting - - 1
Material crushing, grinding or separating 1 - 5
Commercial production of alcoholic beverages - - -
Crematorium - - 1
Extraction of material from a waterway - 3 5
Firewood 4 3 23
Keeping poultry - - 1
Commercial landfills - - 2
Logging - - 1
Milk production - - 1
Motor sports 1 1 4
Motor sports and outdoor concerts - - 1
Outdoor concerts 10 12 5
Commercial use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals 6 20 133
Petroleum storage 1 - 65
Road building material production - - 2
Concrete production - - 9
Sewage treatment - - 2
Sewage treatment and incineration - - 1
Placement of soil on land 3 1 10
Transportation within the ACT of regulated waste 9 6 17
Transport of controlled waste 3 9 10
Timber milling - - 2
Waste petroleum recovery - - 1
Operation of a firearm shooting range - - 5
Wool-on sheepskin tanning - - -
Treatment of contaminated soil - - 2
TOTAL 35 55 312

Environmental Protection Agreements

Environmental Protection Agreements are formal, non-binding agreements between the EPA and businesses. These agreements are designed to help businesses manage their environmental performance. Section 38 of the EP Act provides for the EPA to enter into Environmental Protection Agreements and allows the agreements to be used instead of Environmental Authorisations where people are conducting certain activities that entail a moderately significant risk of environmental harm (those listed in Schedule 1 Class B of the Act).

The following table shows 56 Environmental Protection Agreements were made during the year, bringing the number of agreements currently being administered by the EPA to 175.

Activity (Schedule 1 Class B of the Act) Agreements for 2013–14 Agreements for 2014–15 Agreements for 2015–16 Total Agreements
Land development/construction 57 51 54 166
Municipal services 1 - - -
E-Waste Dismantling and Storage - 1 - 1
Wastewater reuse - - 2 2
Contaminated sites - 7 - 6
TOTAL 58 59 56 175

Of the 175 agreements, 166 relate to builders and developers undertaking construction works on sites greater than 0.3 hectares. A condition of the agreements requires the endorsement by the EPA of an erosion and sediment control plan prior to works commencing. The EPA received and endorsed 127 erosion and sediment control plans and undertook 460 inspections of development sites greater than 0.3 hectares. There were seven agreements for contaminated land which related to the requirement to implement on-going site management plans, primarily related to sites impacted by residual bonded asbestos.

Contaminated Land Notifications

The EPA received two contaminated land notifications under s.23A of the EP Act during the reporting period. Both related to operational service station sites where contamination had been detected during routine maintenance or redevelopment of the sites. There have been 88 notifications since the contaminated land provisions were enacted in 1999.

Contaminated Sites

Ten independent contaminated land audits into site suitability by EPA-approved auditors were reviewed and endorsed by the EPA during 2015–16. Three related to the Kingston Foreshore development area, six to service station and other fuel storage site redevelopments, and one in relation to the Campbell Section 5 redevelopment. Three independent audits into the adequacy of site management and remedial action plans were also reviewed and endorsed by the EPA during 2015–16. These related to the remediation and redevelopment of a former service station site and the on-going management of residual contamination within the Lyneham Sports Precinct and the Canberra Brickworks.

A total of 98 contaminated land environmental assessment reports into the suitability of sites for their proposed uses were also reviewed and endorsed during 2015-16.

457 inspections were carried out of known or potential contaminated sites to review whether redevelopment activities were underway or completed.

Register of Contaminated Sites

On 10 June 2015 legislative amendments to the Register of contaminated sites came into effect. The amendments added additional criteria for sites to be included on the Register. There are 126 sites recorded on the Register. The information contained on the Register is publicly available and can be obtained by contacting the EPA.

Contaminated Land Searches and Data

The EPA maintains records of known, potentially contaminated and remediated land in the ACT. This information is made available through the Lease Conveyancing Enquiry through the ACT Planning and Land Authority and Contaminated Land Search through Access Canberra to ensure persons with an interest in the land have access to records held by the EPA. The information is also provided under agreement to utility providers and other areas of the ACT Government for their operational requirements for installation and maintenance of infrastructure. The EPA entered into four agreements with utility operators and two agreements for the Capital Metro and Basin Priority infrastructure projects in 2015-16. The EPA received and responded to 413 Contaminated Land Search enquiries during the reporting period.

Beneficial Reuse Approvals

Beneficial reuse involves the reuse both on and off-site of soil which has a level of contamination but does not pose, subject to appropriate management, a risk to human health or the environment for a particular land use. The applications for reuse are subject to rigorous assessment in accordance with the nationally adopted guidelines endorsed by the EPA and undertaken by suitable qualified environmental consultants. The EPA received, assessed and approved 60 applications for the beneficial reuse of approximately 226,100 cubic metres of low level contaminated soil.

Planning and Development

The EPA commented on 1,157 Development Applications and other planning documents referred from the Planning and Land Authority and the National Capital Authority.

Complaint handling

During the year the EPA received 740 new complaints covering a range of issues, resulting in 2,061 actions for new and ongoing complaints, as shown in the following table. This represented a 17 per cent increase overall from the previous reporting period. The increase in actions can be attributed to a 10 per cent increase in noise complaints and 50 per cent increase in air complaints. This is mainly due to an increase in urban densities, construction activities and residential properties installing reverse cycle air conditioning systems and evaporative coolers. Other noise-related complaints remained relatively static, which is likely to be due to continued educational programs and planning initiatives to ensure appropriate management and design of developments, particularly in commercial mixed use areas.

The increase in complaints regarding air pollution is primarily associated with odour. The EPA has been working with two businesses in the north and south of the ACT to identify the source of the odour and manage ongoing operations. There was a 35 per cent decrease in actions attributed to solid wood heaters, likely as a result of the warmer weather experienced through the reporting period.

Environmental issue 2013–142014–152015–16
Air 143 195* 293
Asbestos 1 3 -
Firewood - - -
Illegal fishing 6 8 4
Land contamination 1 8 -
Light pollution 26 26 41
Noise 998 1,357 1,510
Other hazardous materials 5 11 10
Ozone - -
Pesticides 1 - 2
Power boats - 3 1
Oil Spill 11 12 4
Dirt on Roads 1 13 23
Sediment and Erosion Control 6 32 21
Solid fuel heaters 84 127 82
Trees - -
Water 42 56 70
Total 1,334 1,757 2,061

*Due to data reporting error for year 2014 -15 total air complaints were reported as 77 which did not include 118 complaints related to burning off.

Noise Complaints

The highest number of complaints in 2015-16 as with previous years related to people affected by noise. The table below provides a breakdown of the complaints and complaint actions by noise type.

Enforcement action 2014-15 2015-16
Air Conditioner/Fans/Heaters Noise 23 34
Alarms Noise 13 10
Amplified Music Noise 223 233
Building Work Noise 94 102
Garden Maintenance or Improvement Noise 17 14
Gym Equipment Noise - 3
Mechanical Plants & Equipment Noise 5 19
PA System Noise 2 -
Vehicle Noise 16 23
Waste Collection Noise 5 8
Noise Others 55 29
Total 453 475

Noise Complaints Actions Taken

Enforcement action 2014-15 2015-16
Air Conditioner/Fans/Heaters Noise 128 229
Alarms Noise 24 20
Amplified Music Noise 834 821
Building Work Noise 168 215
Garden Maintenance or Improvement Noise 33 25
Gym Equipment Noise 1 10
Mechanical Plants & Equipment Noise 13 68
PA System Noise 6 -
Vehicle Noise 47 44
Waste Collection Noise 24 12
Noise Others 103 66
Total 1,381 1,510

Educational Activities

A series of information sheets and guidelines for industry and the general public in relation to the EP Act are available on the Environment and Planning Directorates website. Information is also routinely shared through social media informing builders to ensure sediment controls are in place prior to commencing works and regularly maintained, particularly for major rain events.

Enforcement Activities

Individuals or businesses may incur penalties such as on-the-spot fines, environment protection orders or prosecution for breaches of the EP Act. On-the-spot fines have been issued for minor breaches of the EP Act, mainly at building sites and for discharges to stormwater and excessive noise. More serious matters are subject to orders or prosecution.

One environment protection order was served during the reporting period for the illegal placement of soil on a rural block.

The following table lists the notices and orders served and prosecutions completed since the EP Act commenced on 1 July 1998, and actions taken in recent years.

Enforcement action 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16 Total
Service of first infringement 14 12 5 400
Service of final infringement 1 1 - 120
Environment protection orders - - 1 37
Environment improvement plan - - - -
Prosecution - - - -
Out-of-court settlement - - - -
Total 15 13 7 -

Clinical Waste Act

No new licences were granted to carry on the business of transporting clinical waste during 2015-16. Four existing annual licences were reviewed and approved and 11 permits for vehicles to transport clinical waste were renewed.

Lakes Act

The Delegate of Lakes is responsible for administering provisions of the Lakes Act 1976 including responsibility for works approval on the lakes and lake warnings and closures due to pollution incidents.

The Molonglo Reach water ski area remained closed to the general public. The Territory and Municipal Services Directorate undertook a risk assessment of the water ski area and determined a single power boat operated by a competent person may use the main basin area. A licence under the Lakes Act was issued to the ACT Waterski Association for use of the main basin for training and competition purposes only. Two other licences were issued for the Molonglo Reach area to marine repair businesses.

Two licences were issued for Lake Ginninderra, one to the ACT Waterski Association to facilitate the continuation of the trial use of a designated area for training purposes and one to a marine licence training business.

Water Resources Act

The EPA has responsibility for administering the Water Resources Act 2007 (the WR Act), which aims to ensure the use and management of the Territory’s water resources are sustainable while protecting the ecosystems that depend on the waterways. It is also designed to protect waterways and aquifers from damage.

Licences are issued under the WR Act for activities ranging from water abstraction and bore construction works to construction and maintenance of waterway structures and bore water drilling. In 2015–16 there were 192 active licences to take water with 6 new licences issued. Additionally, 25 waterway works licences were issued. The number of waterway works licences was higher than previous years, which may reflect a slight increase in greenfields developments during the reporting period. There were 117 water meters inspected during the reporting period.

Water is more commonly being considered a commodity and water entitlements are commonly traded in other areas of Australia, both within and between jurisdictions. Demand for trades in the ACT is low as the ACT does not have large irrigation dams or large-scale irrigation businesses. There were 4 new water access entitlements issued in the ACT.

Licence type 2013–14 2014–15 2015–16
Bore works licence 7 0 3
Waterway works licence 26 20 25
Licence to take water (new) 10 16 6
Water access entitlements 13 25 4

Enforcement Activity

Licensees are regulated in accordance with the EPA’s enforcement policy through an educative process, with a progressive increase in punitive outcome. People are given advisory notices and warnings when potential compliance issues arise, however if the matter is serious punitive measures may be considered in the first instance. This process can prevent serious harm or breaches of the WR Act.

Enforcement activity in 2015–2016 was consistent with the previous year, which indicates a positive shift towards compliance by the regulated community. This indicates a successful implementation of the National Framework for Compliance and Enforcement systems for Water Resource Management.

Enforcement action 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
Written caution (advisory) 23 14 18
Written Formal Warning 22 3 6
Direction 1 4 1
Infringement Notice 0 3 -
Prosecution 0 0 0
Total 46 24 25

National Framework for Compliance

The EPA continued its commitment to implement the National Framework for Compliance and Enforcement Systems for Water Resource Management within the ACT by:

  • initiating a more targeted and intelligence driven approach to monitoring, which targets water resource activity according to risk level;
  • developing project legacy by implementing new compliance and enforcement tools into standard operating procedures; and
  • enhancing the profile of compliance and enforcement in workplace culture and reporting mechanisms.

Further Information can be obtained from:

Greg Jones
Environment Protection Authority
13 22 81

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