EPA and DELWP review EP Act submissions

The Victorian EPA and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) are encouraged by the level of interest in Victoria’s new environmental regulations and standards, after receiving more than 300 public submissions.

EPA Chief Executive Cathy Wilkinson said feedback has been positive, with suggestions from industry, business and community members on how to improve the regulations.

“It’s fantastic that so many individuals and organisations have taken the time to have their say,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“Their comments will ensure the regulations and standards are sound and robust.”

Taking effect 1 July 2020, the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 represents the most significant change to Victoria’s environmental regulatory regime since the introduction of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

Significant changes include a general environmental duty, which requires all Victorian undertaking an activity with potential environmental and human health risk to identify and implement reasonably practical means to eliminate or minimise risk.

Additional changes include higher penalties for illegal dumping, a public register, improved information sharing with other agencies and third party community rights.

DELWP Executive Director Mark Rodrigues said consultation engaged EPA Industry Reference and Community Groups and local and state government stakeholders.

“We’ve had a great response to the consultation process and this feedback will be invaluable in helping us shape this important legislation to better protect our environment,” Mr Rodrigues said.

According to an EPA statement, the EPA and DELWP are now reviewing all submissions, and have committed to responding through the Victorian Government’s Response to Public Comment Report in 2020.

“Feedback that goes beyond the scope of public comment on proposed regulations and standards will be considered in light of EPA’s broader transformation program,” the statement reads.

The Response to Public Comment Report will be released on the Engage Victoria website in early 2020.

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VIC EPA increases occupation of glass recycling facility

The Victoria EPA has increased its occupation of a glass recycling facility in Coolaroo, after stepping in to remove stockpile hotspots in October.

The action comes after a spot fire demonstrated that an industrial waste stockpile was not being appropriately managed to protect community and environment.

According to an EPA statement, recent stockpile monitoring has detected an increase in temperatures across areas that remain a concern to the EPA.

Since 25 October, the EPA has removed over 1100 truckloads of waste from the site, representing 10 per cent of the contaminated waste where hotspots are occurring.

“Works to remove hotspots and contaminated glass will continue for some months, with an estimated volume of 50,000 cubic metres of waste to remove,” the statement reads.

EPA Taskforce Manager Danny Childs said the EPA would continue to use all regulatory powers available to ensure hotspots are removed from the site as soon as possible.

“EPA will continue to undertake this work to reduce the risk to local communities and the environment,” Mr Childs said.

A regulatory oversight group consisting of EPA, MFB, WorkSafe and Hume City Council will continue a coordinated, multi-agency approach to drive compliance across the site.

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VIC EPA to assess WtE proposal

The Victorian EPA is assessing a works approval application for a waste to energy facility in Dandenong South.

The proposed facility, to be operated by Great Southern Waste Technologies, seeks to utilise gasification technology to process 100,000 tonnes of municipal solid and commercial and industrial waste each year.

According to an EPA statement, if built, the facility will deliver approximately 7.9 mega watts of electricity to the grid.

“EPA will assess the proposal against all relevant environmental policies and guidelines and look at any potential environmental and human health impacts that could result from the proposed development, including, but not limited to, air emissions, odour, noise, greenhouse gas emissions, wastewater treatment and discharge and reuse of wastewater or residual ash,” the statement reads.

In its works approval application, Great Southern Waste Technologies states that the facility will use proven technology to recover energy and export it into the grid as base load power, available to both commercial and residential customers.

“Utilising this valuable resource through recovery of the energy offers a sustainable improvement to waste management services currently being provided in Dandenong South, whilst reducing the overall greenhouse gas emissions and the potential environmental impacts associated with landfilling,” the application reads.

Submissions are open until 8 January 2020.

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$30M stockpile clean-up continues

Thousands of cubic metres of material will leave a waste stockpile in Geelong this week, as the EPA begins removing truckloads of contaminated soil.

The Victorian EPA used powers granted under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to take over management at the stockpile in April, after the previous operator let recycling waste grow to dangerous levels.

In a statement at the time, Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the stockpile contains an estimated 320,000 cubic meters of waste including timber, concrete, brick, plaster, glass and ceramics.

EPA South West Region Manager Carolyn Francis said the contaminated soil will be removed in a closely monitored operation over the next four weeks.

“The soil contains a variety of contaminants including metals, plastics and some asbestos, so the removal operation has been carefully planned,” Ms Francis said.

“The soil will be kept damp during loading to prevent any problems with dust, then sealed in plastic on site for safe transport in covered trucks to a licensed landfill in Melbourne, and will be tracked to their destination by EPA’s electronic Waste Transport Certificate system.”

Ms Francis said the EPA will run additional asbestos fibre air quality monitoring at the site during soil removal, which will be managed by an independent occupational hygienist.

“The removal of this hazard will clear some of the land around the edges of the property and remove a potential source of dust from the site,” Ms Francis said.

The site’s land will likely be sold to recover costs following the cleanup, according to the EPA’s website.

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NSW EPA opens MWOO consultation

EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford says the EPA does not intend to amend its MWOO revocation, or allow the material to be used as a soil amendment on agricultural, mining rehabilitation or forestry land.

“The research undertaken on MWOO has been extensive, including an assessment of human health and ecological risks when applied as a soil amendment and advice from scientific experts,” Mr Gifford said.

“The research clearly shows that the potential risks outweigh the limited benefits of applying MWOO on agricultural land, given the levels of contamination left behind such as glass and plastics, as well as metals and chemicals.”

The NSW EPA is seeking feedback on the future use of mixed waste organic outputs (MWOO), and a proposed transition package to support the alternative waste treatment (AWT) industry transition.

The proposed transition package follows the EPA’s October 2018 revocation of the general and specific Resource Recovery Order and Resource Recovery Exemption for the application of MWOO.

Mr Gifford said the NSW Government’s proposed $6.5 million transition package is designed to help industry consider and develop new sustainable solutions to manage general household waste.

“This is just the first step in considering new and future uses for general household waste, with significant work underway to improve the management of waste in NSW through the development of a 20 Year Waste Strategy,” Mr Gifford said.

“The $6.5 million package includes funding for AWT operators to undertake research and development into alternative products and end markets for household general waste, and to make the required changes to their facilities to produce products, such as refuse derived fuel or other innovative new uses.”

Mr Gifford said funding is available to introduce food organics and garden organics (FOGO) processing lines at AWT facilities.

“More than 40 NSW councils are already providing FOGO kerbside collections to households, or food only collections as sustainable alternatives in managing general household waste,” Mr Gifford said.

“The NSW Government is also extending existing funding to minimise the risk of disruption to kerbside collection services and ensure that any additional transport and landfill costs are not passed on to councils or ratepayers.”

According to Mr Gifford, NSW Health advised that they do not expect any adverse health effects as a result of past use of MWOO on agricultural land.

“The health risk assessment identified certain circumstances where exposure to chemicals could occur at levels that are higher than referenced doses, but these circumstances would be unusual and short lived,” Mr Gifford said.

According to Australian Council of Recycling CEO Pete Shmigel, if the NSW Government implements the EPA’s decision, waste to landfill or incineration will increase by roughly 25 per cent.

“It is hard to understand how an internationally proven product successfully used by local farmers and others for nearly 20 years – and which the NSW Government has previously said has no human health impact – can be banned,” Mr Shmigel said.

“While industry has been given no opportunity to see the report cited in today’s media, we were yesterday ‘confidentially’ briefed by the EPA that laboratory tests on our industry’s material were done at 10 times the actual permissible usage.”

Mr Shmigel said industry has on several occasions offered to develop and invest in new performance levels to address EPA concerns.

“That offer has been de facto rejected, or is now being dismissed as unachievable, without robust industry consultation,” Mr Shmigel said.

“Therefore, the prospect of an environmentally beneficial and economically sustainable way forward has been seemingly ruled out by the EPA, which is fully unproductive.”

In contrast, Total Environment Centre Executive Director Jeff Angel welcomed the EPA’s decision.

“This issue has been festering for over 10 years, when we and scientists first drew attention to the potential pollution from the toxic chemicals and plastics that was being applied as a so-called soil enhancer,” Mr Angel said.

“It’s now clear it was poisoning the environment and threatens human health. We don’t need this stuff spread across the environment, and better ways need to be found to reuse the resources.”

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VWMA to host forum on EPA changes

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is holding an industry forum to grow the waste sector’s understanding of new environmental protection legislation.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith said new environmental regulations, starting 1 July 2020, will greatly impact industry sectors throughout Victoria.

“July 2020 will see the biggest overhaul of Victoria’s environmental laws and regulations, which will have substantive impacts to the waste and recycling sector including logistics, reprocessors and the organics and composting industry,” Mr Smith said.

“The new regime adopts a preventive and duties-based approach to environmental protection, and imposes new frameworks and principles that will change the way waste management companies are regulated.”

The EPA’s new Environment Protection Amendment Act is focused on preventing waste and pollution risk, rather than managing harm after it has occurred and is modelled on occupational health and safety legislation.

Some of the most significant changes include a general environmental duty, which requires all Victorians undertaking an activity with risks of harm to the environment and human health to identify and implement reasonably practical means to eliminate or minimise these risks.

This covers risks from waste management activities from generation through to disposal.

Under the new legislation, licences will also be subject to regular reviews and a risk-based environmental audit regime introduced.

According to Mr Smith, it’s important businesses make themselves aware of these changes, and aligning with an association is a great way to stay on top of what is going on.

“The VWMA participates in a number of references groups related to the new act and has been communicating for the last 12 months to our members about some of the incoming changes,” Mr Smith said.

“Now it’s the people on the ground, the people that deliver waste and recycling services daily to make sure they understand what’s coming and prepare accordingly or voice their concerns now. ”

Mr Smith said the VWMA, in partnership with Russell Kennedy Lawyers and Equilibrium Consulting, is inviting anyone working in the waste and recycling industry to take part in the forum, which will also include opportunities to engage with experts across the sectors.

“Substantial changes are ahead for Victoria and we have crafted a program that will unpack the essential elements of the new Environment Protection Act and the areas of regulation,” Mr Smith said.

“We encourage everyone to come along to these sessions with laptops and other relevant devices, as sessions will include opportunities to summarise and submit feedback via government’s engage platform website.”

Mr Smith said attendees will receive all relevant information in one place and also also hear from legal firms and consultants, who will present multiple perspectives on how the new changes will impact businesses.

Russell Kennedy Lawyers Principal Stefan Fiedler said the state government’s legislative reform mandate originates from protecting human health from pollution and waste.

“The reform must facilitate, support and protect investment, by industry, state government and local government by creating certainty to achieve this objective,” Mr Fiedler said.

“A balanced and proportionate regulatory response is required recognising the contribution by legitimate operators forming the foundation of Victoria’s waste and resource recovery sector.”

According to Mr Smith, the VWMA will capture and consolidate industry concerns and feedback, which it will incorporate into an industry submission on the upcoming changes.

The forum will run 23 October at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, as part of Waste Expo Australia.

For information click here.

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VIC compost facility seeks expansion

The Victorian EPA is assessing a works approval application for an expansion and upgrade of the Camperdown Compost Company’s Gnotuk facility.

Under the proposal, the existing Blind Creek Rd compost facility would be expanded to receive up to 36,300 tonnes a year of solid and liquid wastes – a 13,138 tonne increase on the sites current 23,162 tonne capacity.

If approved, the site will add additional waste categories including commercial food waste, tannery and wool scouring wastes, category C soils and stormwater contaminated with oil or hydrocarbons.

According to an EPA statement, the site will convert waste into up to 15,000 tonnes of pasteurised compost material a year, using upgraded forced aeration technology.

The EPA’s assessment is being jointly carried out with a Planning Permit application to Shire of Corangamite.

The Gnotuk facility is an EPA licensed site.

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Chemical and paint drop-off centres open in SA

The South Australian Government has opened new chemical and paint drop-off centres in Campbelltown, Heathfield, North Plympton and Edinburgh North.

Environment Minister David Speirs said the state government contributed more than $1 million to the centres, with local partners set to operate the facilities.

“Until now, householders could only access a depot at Dry Creek, which only opened on the first Tuesday morning of each month for three hours,” Mr Speirs said.

“The new facilities make it significantly easier for South Australian households to safely dispose of these chemicals, and I encourage everyone to take advantage of this free service.”

According to Mr Speirs, many people don’t realise the damage that can be caused when chemicals and paint are handled or disposed of incorrectly.

“Apart from the threat to our waterways and surrounding environments if flushed into our sewerage and drain systems, storing unused hazardous chemicals at home or in the garden shed can be potentially lethal if not handled properly,” Mr Speirs said.

“They can be particularly dangerous to young children who cannot yet read warning labels.”

Mr Speirs said it was important to note that some items and substances would not be accepted, such as ammunition, asbestos, tyres, fertiliser and pharmaceuticals.

“Residents are reminded to keep chemicals in their original containers where possible, and ensure they are clearly labelled and well-sealed,” Mr Speirs said.

“It is also best to place open or leaking containers in a plastic rubbish bin or bucket, and transport them in the boot of the car or a trailer making it safer for the driver and to also assist in worker safety at the depots.”

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NSW EPA releases new C&D guidelines

The NSW EPA has published two new guidance documents to help the construction and demolition industry strengthen their procurement and contract processes around waste disposal.

In NSW, waste owners and transporters may be guilty of an offence if construction and demolition waste is transported to the wrong facility or disposed of illegally.

Individuals can be fined up to $250,000, while corporations can be fined up to $1,000,000. If the offence involves asbestos waste, the fines double.

EPA Executive Director Waste Operations Carmen Dwyer said the documents, Construction and Demolition Waste: A Management Toolkit and Owner’s Guide to Lawful Disposal of Construction and Demolition Waste, will help both private and government organisations strengthen their waste processes.

“We know that most people in this industry are keen to cut out unlawful behaviour, and the toolkit and guide provide steps that businesses can take to ensure their waste material is lawfully disposed of,” Ms Dwyer said.

“The documents provide step-by-step guides to help industry bolster their contracts with waste transporters, and factor in control measures from the beginning of the procurement process through to disposal.”

Guidance includes knowing what waste streams will be generated, questioning waste management quotes that appear too low, checking council development consent and environment protection laws and having clear roles and responsibilities for everyone managing waste on the project.

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$30M Victorian stockpile clean-up begins

The first truck loads of construction and demolition waste are being removed from a waste stockpile in Lara, Geelong, after the Victorian Government took control of site management in May.

Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the process could take several years, with the state government providing $30 million for clean-up and fire prevention measures.

“Poor site management practices by the previous operator let the recycling waste grow to dangerous levels, resulting in an unacceptable fire risk to the local community, the environment and emergency services,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“There is absolutely no excuse for the reckless behaviour of the people who left this mess for us to deal with, and we will have no hesitation pursuing them to cover the cost of the clean-up.”

According to Ms D’Ambrosio, the site contains an estimated 320,000 cubic metres of predominantly construction and demolition waste, including materials such as timber, concrete, bricks, plaster, glass and ceramics.

“The first stage will be the processing and removal of a 27,000 cubic metre stockpile of timber, weighing an estimated 3500 tonnes,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“The City of Greater Geelong will project manage the works on behalf of the EPA and government, including managing interim fire risk measures by maintaining 24/7 security, secure fencing and maintenance of firefighting equipment.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said the EPA is pursuing previous site occupiers, owners, company directors and any other relevant parties to recover the costs of the fire prevention measures and clean up.

“Since August 2017, the EPA has had additional powers to support Victoria’s fire services and issue remedial notices to facilities not properly managing potential fire risks,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

“These powers will be strengthened further under the new Environment Protection Act which will come into effect on 1 July 2020, to prevent situations like this in the future.”

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