Review into EPA’s regulation of chemical waste 

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) has accepted all 22 recommendations by an independent review into its historical regulation of chemical waste that was commissioned by EPA’s independent Governing Board. 

EPA has already significantly improved its regulation of chemical waste by strengthening its pollution reporting, intelligence and waste transport systems and establishing a waste crime prevention inspectorate. Two thirds, or 25 of 38 actions in response to the 22 recommendations, have already been completed.

The independent review was commissioned by EPA’s Governing Board following the discovery of illegally stored chemical waste across Melbourne’s northern suburbs in late 2018 and early 2019.

The review found EPAs historical regulation of chemical waste was inadequate and made recommendations to improve both responsiveness, and internal systems and processes.  

Findings and actions

The review’s 22 recommendations covered four key areas, including:

  • pollution reports
  • intelligence systems
  • waste transport certificates
  • policies and procedures.

The summary below provides an overview of the review’s findings and what we are doing to address them. 

Pollution reporting

The review found EPA had not historically had a consistent and centralised approach to dealing with pollution reports and that there has been insufficient visibility over officer decisions.

It also identified inconsistent approaches in how incidents were being prioritised for action, and a lack of clearly documented procedures. It also highlighted deficiencies in the ability of EPA’s systems to capture information about pollution reports appropriately.

What are we doing?

We have:

  • introduced an improved central triage system for pollution reports and our categorisation process
  • enhanced quality assurance processes
  • reviewed our investigation processes to ensure intelligence and pollution reports about potentially sensitive sites are assessed and receive an appropriate response.
  • updated all associated manuals and procedures
  • made changes to our electronic systems to better capture information
  • established more training programs delivered regularly.

Intelligence systems

The review found that historically EPA’s use of intelligence information had not delivered accurate and early identification of intelligence gaps. This presented challenges in identifying trends and emerging risks.

It also found deficiencies in EPA’s intelligence platforms and identified that opportunities to optimise existing intelligence systems had been missed.

What are we doing?

We have:

  • improved our systems to ensure intelligence reports are better captured, flagged and defined
  • established better information sharing between internal teams
  • committed additional resources towards data analytics and intelligence capabilities.
  • established a dedicated Waste Crime Prevention Inspectorate
  • strengthened intelligence sharing mechanisms with co-regulators to share intelligence on high risk waste and waste crime.

Waste transport certificates

The review found that EPA’s reporting systems relating to waste transport certificates were basic and did not provide trends or adequately indicate areas of risk.

It also found that historically, information about waste transport certificate compliance and intelligence was not being shared effectively across different parts of the organisation. The review highlighted that processes for checking waste transport certificates were both manual and time consuming.

Deficiencies in EPA’s ability to detect waste being transported or received inappropriately were also identified. 

What are we doing? 

We have:

  • mandated the use of electronic waste transport from 1 July 2019
  • developed a risk-based compliance and enforcement program to monitor and address waste transport certificate compliance
  • improved our waste transport compliance reporting systems. 

Policies and procedures

The review found some of EPA’s key performance indicators (KPIs) were not achieving the desired outcomes.

The review also found some of our documented procedures did not reflect processes performed by staff. There were instances where procedures had not been reviewed in line with their scheduled review dates or finalised.

What are we doing?

We have:

  • developed new standard procedures for incidents and pollution reporting
  • finalised all processes and procedures relating to waste transport certificates
  • developed a new review schedule for standard operating procedures
  • introduced a new Quality Assurance and Improvement Framework
  • reviewed operating procedures, including materials used by our contact centre
  • committed to reviewing all key performance indicators to improve outcomes for pollution responses and incorporating these into EPA’s workplan.

You can read more about the review and EPA’s response by downloading the full report

Reviewed 22 May 2020