Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s (EPA) 2016-2017 Annual Report has been tabled in the Victorian Parliament.
Upon its release, the EPA described the year as the beginning of its most comprehensive reform and transformation program since its establishment in 1971.
EPA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Tim Eaton said the reform program would ensure EPA was equipped to deal with emerging challenges such as growing pressure on Victoria’s landscape, waterways and air from population growth, our changing economy and climate change.
“In 2016-17, we developed a five-year plan – Our environment, our health, to guide our work and ensure we deliver the greatest possible service for Victorians and their environment. This plan sets our strategic direction and will help EPA become a more modern and agile organisation and a world-class regulator of pollution and waste.”
Mr Eaton said that in 2016-17 EPA continued to provide a strong frontline response to local pollution and waste issues and emergency incidents.
Over the past year, the EPA received more than 10,000 pollution reports and almost 200 emergency notifications. The EPA also implemented a new incident response system that integrates its environmental public health function, and further developed Victoria’s incident air monitoring service.
It can now deploy indicative air monitoring equipment to an incident anywhere in Victoria within four hours of notification, improving community access to air quality and health information during emergency incidents.
Some of the EPA’s initiatives in 2016-17, include:
EPA continued to implement the recommendations from the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry and deliver on its commitment to support the Latrobe Valley community through recovery. In September 2016, EPA initiated a co-design process to work with the community on a new air monitoring network for the region. This process enabled members of the community to design network enhancements with support from air quality experts. The new network is expected to be operational by June 2018.
Environmental public health function
The EPA became responsible for providing Victorians with environmental public health advice after this function was transferred from the Department of Health and Human Services. This fulfilled one of the Victorian Government’s early EPA reform commitments and created a consolidated and enhanced environmental health capability for Victoria within EPA.
Victoria’s first Chief Environmental Scientist
EPA’s new environmental public health function was further strengthened through the appointment of Victoria’s first Chief Environmental Scientist, Dr Andrea Hinwood, in May 2017.
Contamination at shooting ranges
The agency began investigating potential environmental and human health risks posed by outdoor shooting ranges. This work followed the discovery of lead contamination above the health limits for recreational levels in soil at the North Wangaratta Recreation Reserve in April 2016.
Emerging contaminants are an increasing focus for EPA. In 2016-17, the agency hosted a summit of international environment experts and regulators on per-and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) and is now leading the development of a PFAS National Management Plan.
Mr Eaton noted that figures showed an increase in pollution reports in 2017 and he urged the public to continue to use the 1300EPA VIC (1300 372 842) 24-hour hotline to report suspected pollution events
“The public are our eyes and ears and the best resource we have to detecting and responding to pollution and waste incidents in real-time,” he said.
Total pollution reports
Pollution reports from community
Total pollution reports by region
*291 pollution reports were not allocated by 30 June 2017. Source: EPA Victoria
A full copy of the EPA 2016-2017 Annual Report is available on their website.