South Australia strengthens its EPA with new Act

The South Australian Government has strengthened its Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) with the passing of its Environment Protection (Waste Reform) Amendment Act 2017.

The new legislation is part of a suite of measures to ensure a level playing field across the waste industry and provide the right settings to protect the environment.

The changes provide the Environment Protection Authority with greater powers to better tackle illegal dumping and excessive stockpiling as well as supporting innovative resource recovery. The powers allow the EPA to take more timely and proportionate actions to deal with licence breaches.

The Act permits the EPA to apply to a judge of the Supreme Court for a warrant in an illegal dumping investigation by marking waste in vehicles, installing GPS devices and installing cameras in specific premises or vehicles.

“The warrant can be taken to authorise the senior authorised officer to enter or interfere with any premises, vehicle or thing as reasonably required to exercise the powers specified in the warrant,” the Act says.

The EPA can also issue an environment protection order to prevent or minimise environmental harm or deal with stockpiled or abandoned waste or other matter. Unauthorised stockpiling can occur where facilities exceed maximum allowable limits imposed by the Act.

The amendments were developed following a two-year engagement program with waste and resource recovery sector, the broader community and across government.

The government estimates the South Australian waste and resource recovery sector is a $1 billion industry and employs around 5000 people.

Environment Minister Ian Hunter said the EPA has a strong focus on the illegal dumping of commercial level or hazardous waste, with dedicated investigations staff. The new powers will build on existing EPA powers to support the agency in successfully identifying and taking action against illegal dumping.

Improved deterrence aims to assist in reducing the significant costs each year in cleaning up illegally dumped waste.