Working with the new Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018
A new legal framework called the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 will come into effect on 1 July 2020. It includes a new approach to environmental issues, focusing on preventing waste and pollution impacts rather than managing those impacts after they have occurred. The Act sets out a number of important duties that Victorians need to be aware of, whether you are undertaking an activity, or simply own or manage contaminated (or potentially contaminated) land.
Atma Environmental has been closely following the new Act and implementation of forthcoming regulations to ensure it remains in front of the field, providing the most cogent and well-informed advice possible to our clients.
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General environmental duty
The cornerstone of the new Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2018 is the general environmental duty (GED). The GED will focus Victorian business, industry and the community on preventing harm. This will require people to undertake reasonably practicable steps to eliminate, or otherwise reduce risks of harm to human health and the environment from pollution and waste from the activities that they undertake.
Atma Environmental has the expertise and knowledge to assist clients assess their activities for the likelihood of harm, the degree of potential harm, the current ‘state of knowledge’ about the risk(s), and the suitability and costs of ways to eliminate or reduce the risk of harm.
Residual risks to human health and the environment frequently exist from historically contaminated sites and it is important to understand if clean-up or other measures undertaken to manage the risks have been appropriate. The Act establishes a ‘Duty to Manage’ contaminated land, requiring persons in management or control of land to assess and then minimise the risks of harm to human health and the environment from the contamination.
To assist clients with their Duty to Manage contamination, Atma Environmental provides a wide range of professional services to identify and assess contamination, advise on contamination management/remediation and to assist in any community notification or consultation that may be required.
The Act also establishes a new ‘Duty to Notify’ of contaminated land. The ‘Duty to Notify’ requires a person in management or control of land to notify EPA as soon as practicable if the contamination may pose a significant risk to human health or the environment. Contamination will be notifiable if it meets criteria set out in the proposed legislation and any future regulations.
Atma Environmental is closely watching this space and monitoring developments out of the EPA Victoria to ensure it is able to provide the most up-to-date advice to clients on whether or not they need to notify.
The new Act brings with it the intention of creating a supposed new streamlined process for contaminated land auditing involving preliminary risk screening (PRS) assessments. The intention of a PRS assessment would be to determine if a detailed audit is necessary.
How the PRS process plays out in real life will not be known until its implementation in mid-late 2020, although Atma Environmental is fully capable of providing the necessary preliminary site assessment information to inform environmental auditors for this purpose.
Site management orders
A new tool, Site Management Orders, will allow the establishment of long-term controls to ensure the safe, ongoing management of contaminated sites that would otherwise pose ongoing risks to the community and environment. This might be applied to sites such as closed landfills and sites with environmental audits that have conditions/recommendations. Going forward, SMOs are forecast to be registered on the certificate of land title.
Owners of land which has been audited previously, or other land where there is need for ongoing management or monitoring of contamination, should contact Atma Environmental for further advice.
EPA intends to better hold polluters to account and has increased the penalties and sanctions for environmental offences, including breaching of the general environmental duty and for illegal dumping.
As always, Atma Environmental is ready to assist clients who are required to address any order received from the EPA. Under the new Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2018 these may take a number of forms, escalating from ‘Improvement Notices’ to ‘Environmental Action Notices’. In these matters, clients can expect Atma Environmental to provide straight advice on exactly what is needed to comply, while advocating their case in a professional, results-based manner.