The Annual Compliance Plan describes EPA’s planned compliance activities for the year. This is the third quarterly report.
Quarter three (Q3) has seen much action on strategic initiatives following planning in earlier quarters. Some strategic projects have achieved their objectives, others have reached their active phase, while some have been re-evaluated and de-prioritised.
As part of the Annual Compliance Plan EPA has dedicated a significant portion of resources toward proactively and strategically addressing specific environmental risks and harms. Though EPA has developed strategic initiatives over recent years, 2012–13 is the first year that we’ve targeted these both at a state and local level. As a result EPA is gaining valuable expertise in developing, delivering and maintaining issue-oriented projects.
Many of EPA’s strategic projects address statewide issues best tackled at an industry level.
- We have been targeting the illegal dumping of all types of waste. By the end of Q3 EPA’s Illegal Dumping Strike Force had conducted 185 of the target of 200 inspections for the year. As a result our officers have issued 50 remedial notices, requiring recipients to clean up dumped waste. The annual target is 46 notices. This project will now start gathering intelligence on sub-industries that EPA considers significant contributors to the illegal dumping problem.
- Industrial surface finishing uses chemicals that can harm the environment and human health if not properly managed. In Q3 we developed and launched a compliance checklist to help surface finishers reach compliance.
- A strategic auto-wrecking industry project has identified waste fluids from vehicles as a serious environmental concern. In Q3 EPA created a task force to tackle this issue, working with the whole industry supply chain to manage this risk.
- Inspections of small wastewater treatment plants in the first half of the year found the majority of unlicensed treatment plants were compliant. However, EPA is concerned by reports from the public and operators that many small licensed plants are non-compliant, so this project has been refocused on licensed operators. We will increase compliance and enforcement activity to ensure operators are complying with their licence conditions.
- EPA inspected unlicensed dairy processors in 2012 and found that, though there are some potential environmental risks, there were very few incidences of actual environmental harm. We have decided to stop this project, though ongoing support and monitoring of operators will continue as part of our core work.
- EPA has also decided to end the construction run-off strategy and moved the dairy effluent management project back to regular compliance maintenance.
Local strategic initiatives
North East region LSIs
EPA has confirmed that Nuplex Wangaratta has implemented process changes to reduce risk following a major incident in 2012. Nuplex has significantly reduced production in line with its planned plant closure and we will continue to work with the company during the closure process. EPA has also begun a prosecution in relation to the incident.
The main source of odour issues in Killara achieved compliance with two of the three issued pollution abatement notices. EPA is working with the notice recipient to achieve an effective outcome on the third remedial notice. A taskforce to reduce potential odour sources in the area includes representatives from the City of Wodonga and state government agencies.
Southern Metro region LSIs
Reports from landfills have reached a three-year low, despite an incident where the operator of the Hallam Rd facility accidentally breached the landfill cap during general operations. EPA meets monthly with landfill and compost operators in the Clayton Dingley area to discuss progress on fixing odour issues. In addition to six remedial notices issued to landfill operators this year, EPA fined Clayton Regional Landfill for breaching its licence conditions.
Dry and windy weather, together with a slippage of industry control standards, has seen an increase in poor air quality days in Brooklyn, reinforcing the need for the Brooklyn Industrial Precinct strategy. EPA requires industry to reduce dust with engineered controls, and is working with council and VicRoads to improve roads. The last significant odour source in the region has reduced production, sealed processing areas and repaired filtering equipment to control odour in response to pressure from EPA. Odour reports have significantly decreased in 2013.
South West region LSIs
Noise testing at Port Campbell that was scheduled to begin in early April was deferred for two weeks due to a shutdown of one of the gas plants. Noise from other drilling in the area during the monitoring period will also delay completion of this strategic project.
In North Geelong EPA conducted further noise monitoring in January, while one of the likely sources was shut down. These and earlier monitoring results are being used to formulate a remedial notice to address noise issues.
Gippsland region LSIs
EPA is analysing monitoring results from Australian Paper, focusing on particle emissions, groundwater contamination, waste minimisation and amenity impacts. This analysis will direct future activity, possible remedial notices and a program to educate the business about its compliance obligations.
EPA officers continue to inspect sites at the Leongatha Industrial Estate with South Gippsland Water. Of particular concern is the lack of appropriate containment around chemical storage that could pollute stormwater. EPA will issue remedial notices to businesses to address poor containment. A site inspection is also planned in relation to over-irrigation in Poowong, to ensure the facility has enough capacity in storage ponds and an alternative when irrigation is inappropriate.
North West region LSIs
The broiler farm strategic initiative ran from March to April. Fifteen poultry farms were inspected to identify and remedy issues, increase operators’ awareness of their obligations and improve EPA’s knowledge base on best-practice farm operations.
Between July 2012 and March 2013, EPA officers conducted over 880 inspections in response to emergency incidents and pollution reports.
Through EPA’s 24-hour pollution hotline, 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC), all calls are acknowledged and prioritised as they come in. EPA has exceeded targets for attending pollution reports requiring ‘planned attendance’ and is tracking close to the target for ‘immediate attendance’ inspections. EPA’s rate of actioning reports within 28 days has improved slightly on last quarter.
EPA is slightly behind its Q3 targets in most areas of compliance maintenance inspections.
The unit responsible for regulatory programs and annual performance statement inspections has been working on business systems reform to improve EPA’s ability to analyse compliance in these areas. Early sunsetting of the Environment and Resource Efficiency Plans (EREP) program has made a number of targeted inspections unnecessary, so EPA may not achieve these targets. We have redirected efforts towards licence, landfill and contaminated land inspections.
In Q3 EPA escalated or revoked nearly 80 per cent of notices within 28 days of the due date. This is an improvement over Q2 (67 per cent within 28 days), but is still below the target of 90 per cent. EPA’s year-to-date average is 63 per cent and continues to be a major focus.
EPA applies the Compliance and Enforcement Policy in all compliance activities; work we do under the Annual Compliance Plan may lead to sanctions in line with this policy.
Between July 2012 and March 2013, EPA issued 29 official warnings to non-compliant businesses for low-risk non-compliances (for example, ones of an administrative nature).
EPA issued 26 penalty infringement notices (PINs) of up to $7000 where harm to the environment was low.
EPA has issued three notices of contravention. These are used in the case of an ongoing major contravention. Where the duty holder is successfully prosecuted they can be liable for an additional $42,000 for each day the contravention continues.
EPA successfully prosecuted Adam Parkin for depositing industrial waste at an unlicensed site. He was fined $1000 and ordered to pay EPA’s costs of $2500.
Focus for Q4
For the fourth quarter of 2012–13 EPA will focus on meeting targets from strategic initiatives. EPA will also work to complete compliance inspections on sites included in the Annual Compliance Plan, and issue remedial notices and sanctions to non-compliant duty holders. Additionally, EPA will strive to maintain or improve the standard of regulatory practice.