Major infrastructure projects

Contaminated soil management and reuse on major infrastructure projects


Major infrastructure projects in Victoria represent an investment of over $35 billion in significant developments for, or on behalf of, the State of Victoria. These projects include road, rail and other infrastructure-related developments, including some of national significance such as Inland Rail. The government delivery model for many of these projects mandates completion between now and 2025.

Typically, projects of this magnitude require management of large volumes of soil. With an unprecedented number of major infrastructure projects in Victoria, EPA has clarified the approval process to control the movement of soil across major infrastructure projects in a way that manages the environmental risk without imposing unreasonable administrative or regulatory burden on the industry.

We have clarified and streamlined the approvals process by using existing waste classifications. This allows for consistent contaminated soil management and makes the most of reuse opportunities under EPA’s current legislation.

Soil management through classifications

EPA may issue classifications for prescribed industrial wastes (PIW) in accordance with Clause 11 of the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 (the Regulations). Classifications can specify management options through conditions such as the requirement for auditing, tracking, treatment, storing and monitoring. The regulatory requirements for managing contaminated soil are complex and are found across several pieces of legislation including the Environment Protection Act 1970 (EP Act), the Regulations, state environment protection policies (SEPPs) and other legislative instruments such as the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (ASC NEPM).

Waste classifications encourage the reuse of soil according to the waste hierarchy outlined in the EP Act.

Waste management hierarchy from most preferable to least preferable: Avoidance, reuse, recycling, recovery of energy, treatment, containment and disposal.

The use of classifications does not exempt sites from obtaining a works approval as required under the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2017.

An overview of the soil management process has been developed in this flowchart (click for high-resolution image).

Spoil management and reuse decision tree

Exclusions to the soil management process

  • Naturally elevated metals may be granted special approval.
  • Asbestos soil must be sent offsite for disposal.
  • Acid sulfate soil subject to the Industrial Waste Management Policy (Waste Acid Sulphate Soils) best practice (Best Practice Management Plan must be developed by appropriately qualified person).
  • Per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) affected soil –  to be managed under the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measures and EPA interim position.
  • Soil containing volatile organic chemicals requires treatment or disposal.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) soil: > 7ppm must destroy, < 7ppm can retain.
  • Naturally immobilised contaminants by B(a)P must be classified by hazard. Apply to EPA directly.

Legislation related to soil management

IWRR – Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009

NEPM – National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure

SEPP – State Environment Protection Policy (Prevention and Management of Contaminated Land)

Sched Premises Regs – Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2017

EP Act – Environment Protection Act 1970

Application for a major infrastructure soil management classification

Major infrastructure soil management classifications include the transport, on-site reuse and temporary storage of PIW. The classification does not include off-site reuse.

For a classification to be issued for a major project, the soil management plan (SMP) segment of the environment management plan (EMP) needs to be endorsed by an environmental auditor. During a project, the auditor must also verify the processes used to track PIW have been conducted in accordance with the classification issued.

Depending on the size of project area, more than one classification application may be required to assist in the management of the project.

Soil management plan

To apply for a major project classification, the proponent must provide a detailed SMP (as part of the EMP) endorsed by an EPA appointed environmental auditor.

The auditor also needs to be involved in auditing that the SMP has been followed. The proponent must keep sufficient documentation to allow the auditor to determine compliance. Upon completion of the works, the auditor will need to issue a letter of compliance to EPA.

How to apply

A project manager from the Major Projects Unit will be assigned as a contact point for you for the duration of the project.

Once you have detailed the above information, you can apply for a classification by submitting your SMP to the Major Projects Unit.

Major Projects Unit

Phone: 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC)

Email: MPPU@epa.vic.gov.au

Applications will be processed within 60 working days of receiving a completed application. A draft copy of the waste classification will be issued to the proponent for review prior to finalisation.

Page last updated on 28 Nov 2018