Compliance and enforcement

Goulburn Valley Region Water Corporation (ACN 578 076 056)

  • Date of Offence 21 Jun 2012
  • Type of Offence Being the occupier of a scheduled premises, did store prescribed industrial waste (including asbestos) without a licence at 34 listed sites from 21.06.2012, contrary to s.27(1A)(a) of the Act.
  • Background of Offence

    In June 2012 the EPA inspected the Corporation’s Operations Centre located in Shepparton in response to a report from the community. Stockpiles of Industrial Waste were observed on the site, including soil mixed with asbestos cement pipe, concrete, bricks, asphalt and plastic.

    The Industrial Waste identified at the Shepparton Operations Centre was generated by civil works carried out by the Corporation, including rectification of burst water mains within the Region.

    In response the Corporation engaged independent contractors:

    • to assess, screen, characterise and remove the Industrial Waste from the Shepparton Operations Centre; and
    • to inspect and assess all 328 of the Corporation’s sites across the Region.

    On 34 of the 328 sites, stockpiled soil containing Industrial Waste was identified in volumes varying from 10m3 to 4,000m3 per site. These sites are listed in paragraphs 14 to this Undertaking.

    On some of the Corporation’s sites Industrial Waste accumulated over a long period (estimated 50 years), including prior to the Corporation’s constitution in 1994. The Corporation was created in 1994 by the merger of a number of former water boards. At the time the Corporation assumed control of assets including the sites listed in paragraphs 14 from the former water boards, and in some cases former municipal councils. It appears that on 34 sites the Corporation has taken control of a site where Industrial Waste was deposited prior to 1994 and continued its storage, which in some instances had been reused to construct infrastructure (e.g. an embankment). On 12 of the 34 sites, it appears that the Corporation’s operations since it was constituted in 1994, have involved the placement and storage of Industrial Waste.

    The issues identified are indicative of the continuing legacy of the asbestos cement pipe used across the water industry up to the late 1980s. From 1994 to 2000 the Corporation relied on plant managers to deal with the Industrial Waste and soil generated by burst water mains and civil works.

    In 2000 the Corporation developed a standard operating instruction for handling asbestos containing material complying with occupational health and safety requirements. The procedure relied on the EPA guidance at that time for the handling of soil and asbestos (less than 1% asbestos in soil by volume was not a prescribed industrial waste). This guidance changed with the introduction of the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009. The Corporation’s standard operating instruction was not updated at that time.

    The Corporation failed to identify these requirements and continued to store Industrial Waste at 34 sites in contravention of the Act.

    The Corporation accepts responsibility for all of the Industrial Waste on its sites listed in paragraphs 14 to this Undertaking and is committed to rehabilitating the sites in accordance with site specific strategies verified by an Auditor.

    The Corporation is required to rehabilitate the sites listed in the schedule to this Undertaking (8 sites) in compliance with this Undertaking. These sites were identified by the EPA as sites for which a clean up notice would have been issued but for this Undertaking, and are generally accepted as the sites with the greatest volume of Industrial Waste.

    The Corporation commits to voluntarily rehabilitate the remaining 26 sites in compliance with site specific strategies prepared by an independent contractor. This has already been completed for 16 sites with another 6 sites scheduled to commence prior to 30 June 2014.

  • Remedial Action Taken by EPA
  • Date of Court Hearing 27 Jun 2014
  • Date of Court Orders
  • Court Magistrate/Judge Not Applicable
  • Court Location Not Applicable
  • Proceeding Number
  • Reasons for Prosecutions In accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy EPA was satisfied that an enforceable undertaking was an appropriate sanction because Goulburn Valley Region Water Corporation took active responsibility for the offence and the sanction achieved a more effective and long term environmental outcome than prosecution.
  • Court Orders Made

    On 27 June 2014 the Authority accepted Goulburn Valley Region Water Corporation’s (Corporation) offer of an Enforceable Undertaking.  The Undertaking was offered in response to industrial waste being stored at 34 sites in contravention of the Act.

    Under the terms of the Undertaking, the Corporation commits to:

    1. Improve the Corporation’s environmental performance by engaging a suitably qualified site assessor to investigate and identify the extent of industrial waste deposited, complete a risk assessment and complete rehabilitation works.
    2. Complete a review of and update its operating procedures, management systems and tender documentation relating to Industrial Waste against legal requirements and industry best practice and implement training of the Corporation’s personnel and contractors relating to the updates.
    3. A monetary contribution of $150,000 to fund an environmental project external to the Corporation’s core business activities which will benefit the community and environment, namely works on land along Broken-Boosey-Nine Mile Creeks within the Goulburn Broken Catchment Region to protect native vegetation in riparian zones and improve freshwater habitat for endangered fish species.
    4. Expend $100,000 for improvement in environmental performance industry wide.

    The Corporation must engage at its own cost, an Auditor to verify the Corporation’s compliance with the terms of the Undertaking and to prepare a ‘final assessment report’ which outlines each undertaking and provides the auditor’s professional assessment of the Corporation’s compliance with the terms of each undertaking. 

    The Corporation will provide the Authority with a copy of the Auditor’s ‘final assessment report’ and a written statement from its chief executive officer that the Undertaking has been complied with.

    The Corporation has committed to the following cots of compliance with this Undertaking:

    (a)   $100,000 improving the Corporation’s performance;

    (b)   $150,000 delivering benefit to the environment and the community; and

    (c)    $100,000 improving the performance of the industry.

    In addition, the Corporation estimates the cost of ensuring that the Corporation’s sites comply with the Victorian environmental law is estimated to be:

    (a)   $1 million for the 16 sites voluntarily rehabilitated to May 2014; and

    (b)   Between $700,000 and $3 million for rehabilitation of the remaining sites.

    The Corporation will provide to the Authority a detailed costing of compliance expenditure upon completion of the Enforceable Undertaking.

    The terms of the Enforceable Undertaking must be completed, with audit verification, within 4 years of the Enforceable Undertaking being signed and accepted by EPA.

Page last updated on 19 Oct 2016