Compliance maintenance activities
EPA requires many businesses to limit, remedy or prevent pollution through licences, notices, other approvals and statutory instruments. EPA ensures that the operators are compliant with these requirements by inspecting these businesses. This work is referred to as compliance maintenance.
EPA conducts inspections of licensed sites to ensure that businesses are complying with the conditions of their licences. This is essential to identifying any risks posed from site operations to the environment. EPA conducted detailed field inspections of 323 licensed sites. Of these, 71 per cent were found to be compliant and did not require any follow-up work. This proportion is up from 55 per cent in the previous year, though some sites inspected in 2013 –14 were considered a lower environmental and compliance risk.
An inspection report is issued to a duty holder after an inspection and serves as a record of what was observed, discussed and planned during the inspection. In 2013 –14, all inspected sites with an identified operator received an inspection report; a significant improvement on 2012 –13, where the result was 88 per cent.
Annual performance statements are public declarations by licensed site operators on their annual environmental performance. Every APS received was reviewed to verify EPA’s data with the licence holders’ declarations. EPA intended to conduct a total of 50 detailed audits of APSs but only completed 27 field based and 11 desktop audits. APSs were submitted at the end of October 2013 and target sites were identified in February. However, the Hazelwood Open Cut Mine fire response diverted resources from this work. APSs are vital to how EPA regulates, are a crucial source of intelligence, and remain a high priority. We are reviewing our procedures to ensure that we are able to deliver on this target despite future unforseen incidents.
EPA administers several state and federal environmental programs including ones that track the movement of waste pollutant emissions. EPA monitors compliance with the requirements for these programs and also uses data to inform us of sites or operators with potential environmental issues. EPA had planned to use this intelligence together with intelligence gathered from the sites’ APS submissions to target 30 sites with likely non-compliances. This target was not met, with 21 out of the 30 sites inspected. As with the ACP audits, the Hazelwood Open Cut Mine fire impacted delivery as it coincided with the planned inspection dates.
A remedial notice is a written statutory direction that requires the recipient, by law, to undertake works or activities to protect the environment. EPA issued 604 remedial notices in 2013 –14, a 25 per cent increase on 2012 –13. Of these notices 14 per cent required the recipient to engage an environmental auditor and another 19 per cent were required to engage a qualified expert.
Of the notices that fell due in 2013 –14, 21 per cent were not complied with by the due date, an increase from 2012 –13. EPA’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy states that non-compliant notices will be considered for sanctions. EPA aims to be prompt in checking compliance with notices. Generally, 94 per cent of all notices issued in 2013 –14 were either complied with by the due date, or escalated to initiate follow-up enforcement action. This is a significant improvement from the previous year’s result of 69 per cent and indicates that the systems and processes we implemented in 2013-14 to maintain the credibility of EPA remedial notices are working.
Closed landfills need ongoing management to ensure they do not continue to pose a risk to the environment. EPA directs and monitors the management of closed landfills though a post-closure pollution abatement notice (PCPAN) which is a notice issued to formerly licensed landfills requiring ongoing management of actual or potential environmental impacts. While 32 former landfills were inspected during the year, EPA was not able to meet the target to issue 30 sites with a PCPAN, and issued only 19.
There is a significant expenditure and maintenance commitment associated with post-closure notices and involves thorough consultation with each notice recipient. At the end of the year 10 notice recipients were still being consulted on the details of the notices as EPA prefers to consult properly rather than hurry the notices through. These notices will be issued in 2014 –15. Two premises have been moved into a future stage of the program.
EPA issues clean up notices to remedy actual and potential environmental risks at sites with contaminated land and groundwater. These notices are included in EPA’s Priority Sites Register – a public list of sites that require cleanup or ongoing management. EPA set out to inspect 130 sites to ensure that the cleanup is taking place. This target was exceeded with 230 sites inspected in total. This is a good result as it indicates that EPA is monitoring issues that have the potential to have long-term significant environmental impacts.