EPA GED Land Contamination

EPA General Environmental Duty
- Image source The Age

Your duties and obligations regarding land contamination have expanded under the new EPA General Environmental Duty (GED).

Your duties and obligations at a glance

EPA recognises that (as the current land owner/manager) you may not have caused, or contributed to, any land contamination that is present. And that those who have caused, or contributed to, past contamination may have done so before the impact of contamination was understood, or through activities that were lawful at the time.

Nevertheless, you are now subject to a series of duties in relation to land contamination, regardless of the underlying causes. These duties are complex and spread over multiple instruments, the GED, Regulations and Guidance.

The extent of your duties and obligation changes with knowledge. As knowledge of contamination changes, the level of expected action also changes. For example: potential contamination risks must be assessed, known contamination risks must be managed, and notifiable contamination must be reported to EPA.

Generally speaking, the regulatory framework is designed to help you identify proportionate action, for example a desk top risk assessment can precede more costly sampling and monitoring.

Your duties and obligations include the following:

  1. Investigate, or manage, if land contamination is reasonably foreseeable or suspected. Potential contamination requires an assessment of the risk. You must make further, more detailed, inquiries depending on risks that are identified
  2. Identify and manage pathways to exposure or offsite impacts. Known contamination risks must be managed, including consideration of both soil and water
  3. Identify and manage risk risks arising from activities that may disturb or exacerbate contamination. Anticipate and be ready to manage ‘unexpected finds’
  4. Notify EPA of certain types of contamination
  5. Physical and site management controls, clean up and remediation, may be required where reasonably practicable

GEDedge can help you understand what these obligations mean for your business. In particular how to take actions proportionate to your circumstances and potential risks.

GED General Environmental Duty land contamination

Do you need a specialist consultant?

There are many specialist consultants with technical expertise in land contamination. This expertise may be necessary in relation to sampling, monitoring and remediation at your site.   

Depending on your circumstances, sampling and monitoring costs can escalate quickly. The intent of the regulatory framework is that these costs are avoided unless it is reasonably foreseeable or expected that contamination is present. As such, the decision to commence a costly sampling and monitoring program should be taken prudently.

If you already know about land contamination from historic or current activities, it may be necessary to implement a sampling, monitoring and remediation program at your site. Alternatively, if you are less sure, GEDedge can help you determine a level of action, appropriate to your circumstances, that is needed to meet your duties under the Act, Regulations and Guidance.

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