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EPA Victoria developed the Classification for drilling mud (PDF 74KB; the classification) to provide clarity for industry and reduce the regulatory burden associated with the management of drilling mud where there is low risk to human health and the environment.
As a liquid waste, drilling mud is a category A prescribed industrial waste (PIW) under the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 (IWR Regulations), requiring strict management conditions. Based on risks to human health and the environment, the classification recognises drilling mud as a non-PIW, provided appropriate measures are in place to prevent pollution to the environment.
The classification sets the minimum conditions EPA expects of industry.
Implementation of the classification
Table 1 below summarises the sites and activities where the classification does and does not apply.
Table 1: Where does the classification apply?
||For these activities
- when documented assessment shows no risk of soil contamination (testing may not necessarily be required)
- contamination with industrial waste only (bricks, concrete, etc.)
- when testing confirms soil is not PIW (needed for potential contamination)
- Directional drilling through non-contaminated soils
(unless specified below)
|Classification doesn’t apply
- when there is no documented assessment
- when documented assessment indicates potential soil contamination and no further testing is done
- when testing shows PIW contamination of the soils
- drilling for mineral, gas or coal exploration
- drilling through contaminated soils
- drilling with the use of synthetic additives
- drilling in marine environment
When the classification applies, you must comply with general environmental requirements under the Act and all management options in the classification.
When the classification does not apply, you must comply with all relevant requirements under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (the Act), the IWR Regulations and the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2017. This includes licensing and waste transport certificates.
Figure 1: How the drilling mud classification is applied
Compliance and enforcement
If you do not meet the requirements of the classification, the waste will be considered as PIW and EPA take compliance and enforcement action for managing PIW without necessary approvals. You must be able to demonstrate compliance to EPA through relevant records, systems and procedures.
When using this classification you must continue to comply with any licence conditions (where applicable). If there is conflict with these requirements you should comply with your licence.
You will also need to comply with general environmental requirements that apply to all industries under the Act and state environment protection policies (SEPPs). In particular, odour, noise and dust must not negatively impact the area surrounding your site.
Management options under the classification
The gazetted classification should always be your primary reference. EPA has provided some guidance to help you comply with management options. The management options are compulsory for anyone using the classification.
A copy of the classification (PDF 74KB) must be in any vehicle or site that accepts drilling mud.
Producers, transporters and receivers of drilling mud each have a responsibility to ensure that drilling mud management and documentation meets the classification. For example:
- drilling mud producers are responsible for the documented assessment of the drilling site. If a documented assessment is not provided, transporters and receiving premises have a responsibility to refuse the waste or manage the drilling mud as category A PIW in accordance the requirements of the IWR Regulations.
- while transporters and receiving premises are responsible for their own vehicles and sites, producers have a responsibility to ensure that drilling mud is received by an appropriate site and is transported in a suitable vehicle. This includes refusing services from unsuitable vehicles and sites.
See Drilling mud classification in more detail below for more detail.
Response to comments on the draft classification
The new publication is a revised version of the draft classification (publication 1580), which was released for public comment between 19 January 2015 and 27 February 2015. Twenty one submissions were received and these were considered in finalising the classification.
The table below sets out the key themes from public submissions received and EPA’s responses to them.
|Summary of comments
|More detail on acceptable practices for dewatering naturally or by air drying.
||The classification provides general requirements that industry has responsibility to comply with. Supporting information and references are provided above.
|Expand management to ensure better protection of the environment.
||Management options were updated. Please note some of the issues raised did not require specific management options as they are enforceable using existing provisions under the Environment Protection Act 1970.
|Clarification required on the assessment of the drilling mud source.
||The clause was simplified and supporting information on the assessment is provided on this page.
|Comments questioned the exclusion of drilling muds from acid sulfate soil.
||Acid sulfate soils are now included, provided their management satisfies clause 5.1.2 of the classification and the Industrial Waste Management Policy (Acid Sulfate Soils).
|Comments questioned the exclusion of drilling muds from mineral, gas or coal exploration.
||Drilling muds produced during mineral, gas or coal exploration are considered high risk and are excluded from the classification.
|Requested broadening scope to include drilling muds containing incidental contamination, specifically septic wastewater.
||Use of water and natural additives is included in the classification. Contamination with other substances, including sewage and synthetic drilling additives, would mean the liquid waste remains a Category A PIW.
|Changes requested to the requirement for consolidation site. Both longer and shorter time frames were suggested.
||This requirement remains at 30 days. This time limit does not apply to the site of drilling mud production or the dewatering facility or site.