Current issues

Asbestos licence review


Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is introducing a range of measures to strengthen its processes for the licensing of landfills in response to recommendations of an independent report.

In August EPA announced it would order an independent review into all Victorian landfills licensed to accept asbestos after irregularities were identified in EPA’s licence approval processes for the BTQ Bulla landfill site. The error resulted in asbestos being deposited in an area that has not been assessed in accordance with EPA’s assessment processes.

EPA introduced stricter landfill licensing guidelines in 2010. The independent review sought to check all EPA decisions for approval of asbestos landfill cells made since then meet those stricter standards.

The review found the same error had occurred at a landfill in Stawell. EPA believes that neither error resulted in risks to human health or the environment. The review also identified that EPA needs to improve how it processes and documents its approval of asbestos landfill cells and the comprehensiveness of related information it maintains.

EPA has accepted all the review’s recommendations, which will result in improvements to EPA’s processes for landfill licence approvals.

EPA has taken immediate steps to correct all irregularities identified in the review by implementing additional training in landfill design and approval processes, and developing a documentation checklist. More staff training and improved processes, among other initiatives, will also be delivered as part of EPA’s commitment towards continued improvement.

The measures outlined above will give the Victorian community confidence in how EPA is overseeing the management of landfills and their licences on their behalf.

Q and A about asbestos licence review + Expand all Collapse all

  • Questions and answers about the asbestos licence review
  • Why did EPA order the independent review into all its landfill asbestos licences?

    EPA ordered the independent review of all Victorian landfills licensed to accept asbestos after irregularities were identified in the licence approval processes for the BTQ Bulla landfill site. The error resulted in asbestos being deposited in an area that had not been assessed in accordance with EPA’s assessment processes.

    In 2010, EPA introduced stricter landfill licensing guidelines. The independent review by Ernst & Young sought to check all EPA approval decisions for asbestos landfill cells made since then meet those stricter standards.

  • What did the review aim to do?

    The review aimed to understand the level of compliance with EPA’s procedures for licensed asbestos cells in Victoria. These procedures were introduced in 2010 as part of EPA Landfill Licensing Guidelines (EPA Publication 1323) and Best Practice Environmental Management (BPEM) publication (EPA Publication 788).

    The results will inform EPA’s current Licence Modernisation Program.

  • Who conducted the independent review?

    EPA engaged Ernst & Young to conduct the review.

  • How many landfill licences does EPA issue across Victoria?

    There are 85 licensed landfills in Victoria, 71 of which are currently open and accepting waste.

  • How many landfills were investigated as part of the review?

    Ernst & Young focussed on landfills that are licensed to accept asbestos, of which there are 38. Specifically, they reviewed the 21 landfill cells (from 14 landfills) currently accepting asbestos waste that were approved following the introduction of a standardised new cell approval process in 2010.

  • What did the review involve?

    The review was conducted over approximately seven weeks to determine whether key controls for licensing new asbestos landfill cells have been followed. Ernst & Young scrutinised a range of materials including EPA publications and information retained on landfill operations and new asbestos cells approvals. Interviews with EPA staff were also conducted.

  • What are the key findings of the review?

    EPA ordered the independent review by Ernst & Young after irregularities were identified in the licence approval processes for the BTQ Bulla landfill site. The BTQ irregularity resulted in asbestos being deposited in an area that had not been assessed in accordance with EPA’s assessment processes.

    The Ernst & Young review found the same error had occurred at a landfill in Stawell. EPA believes that neither error resulted in risks to human health or the environment.

    The review also identified that EPA needs to improve its processes and documentation for the approval of asbestos landfill cells, as well as the accuracy of related information that is maintained.

  • What action is EPA taking in response to the four sites with exceptions in the audit?

    Bulla Tip and Quarry

    EPA has already taken action in the BTQ case. The landholder has been issued an amended licence that incorporates new, tighter asbestos management conditions. The amended licence was accompanied by a notice requiring environmental auditor verification of cell design for EPA approval.

    Statewide Waste

    EPA officers will now inspect the Stawell site to establish exactly what actions are required, with the view of issuing an amended licence to the landholder and requiring them to provide design and construction documents.

    Latrobe City Council

    For the landfill cell at Latrobe City Council, the proper process was completed and the s53V environmental audit report demonstrated approval of major variation plans. However, EPA was not able to provide the relevant documentation of these approvals being issued and, therefore, the report has noted that evidence was not retained for these approvals.

    For the landfill cell at Latrobe City Council, the proper process was completed and the s53V environmental audit report demonstrated approval of major variation plans. However, EPA was not able to provide the relevant documentation of these approvals being issued and, therefore, the report has noted that evidence was not retained for these approvals.

    To address this matter of documentation retention, EPA has already introduced additional staff training and documentation checklists. Further initiatives will include more staff training and improved processes.

    Grosvenor Lodge Pty Ltd

    For the landfill cell at Grosvenor Lodge Pty Ltd, located in Tuerong on the Mornington Peninsula,  the proper process was completed and the s53V environmental audit report demonstrated approval of major variation plans. However, EPA was not able to provide the relevant documentation of these approvals being issued and, therefore, the report has noted that evidence was not retained for these approvals.

    To address this matter of documentation retention EPA has already introduced additional staff training and documentation checklists. Further initiatives will include more staff training and improved processes.

  • What about the landfills currently accepting asbestos that weren’t investigated in this review? What is the risk of those cells?

    There are currently 43 active cells licensed to accept asbestos that EPA approved prior to the introduction of the stricter cell approval processes in 2010. EPA does not believe these sites pose any greater risk to human health or the environment in regards to asbestos disposal. These sites, along with other landfills, are subject to EPA compliance inspections. If risks are identified, these are then followed-up with appropriate remedial action.

    In 2015-16 EPA will be strengthening the asbestos management conditions of all landfill licences that are licensed to receive asbestos.

  • What is EPAs Licence Modernisation Program?

    EPA’s Licence Modernisation Program developed a framework for the periodic review of licences. Over 2015-16, EPA will commence implementation of these five-year periodic reviews into EPA licensed sites across Victoria. Landfills have been prioritised as the first industry sector to undergo the 5-yearly reviews.

    These reviews will strengthen EPA’s licensing through the updating of standard conditions, licence limits and the administrative details of individual licences.

  • Is EPA changing these reviews of landfill licences following this report's findings?

    EPA has increased the scope of the landfill licence reviews to ensure that all active cells, including those licensed to accept asbestos, have been through appropriate design and approval processes and are suitable for the wastes being disposed in those cells.

  • What action is EPA taking to improve its internal processes in response to the review's findings?

    EPA has accepted all of the review’s recommendations. This will result in improvements to EPA’s processes for landfill licence approvals. 

    EPA has taken immediate steps to correct all irregularities identified in the review by implementing additional training in landfill design and approval processes, and developing a documentation checklist. More staff training and improved processes, among other initiatives, will also be delivered as part of EPA’s commitment towards continued improvement.

    EPA will also be reviewing the licence conditions of all landfills across the state. As part of this, EPA will introduce new asbestos management and cell construction conditions. As part of reviewing each individual landfill licence, EPA will also ensure that all active cells, including those licensed to accept asbestos, have been through appropriate design and approval processes and are suitable for the wastes being disposed in those cells.

  • How can the Victorian community have complete confidence that EPA is consistently upholding the highest environmental standards consistently upholding the highest environmental standards across the state?

    The measures outlined above will give the Victorian community confidence in how EPA is overseeing the management of landfills and their licences on their behalf.

  • Will landfill licence holders have an opportunity to input into the reviews of their licences?

    Landfill licence holders would be given the opportunity to have their say into the new licence conditions before they are rolled out mid next 2016.

    EPA has accepted all the review’s recommendations, which will result in improvements to processes for landfill licence approvals.

Page last updated on 15 Oct 2015