EPA General Environmental Duty
- Image source EPA Vic

EPA has recently issued two fines and enforcement actions for odour offences, which highlight the risks and complexities for small and medium sized business managing potential odour issues.

Recent data indicates that most complaints to EPA relate to odour issues, followed by noise, water and waste. The high proportion of complaints reflects how odour impacts people personally, the conspicuousness of odour, and encroachment of sensitive uses into historically industrial areas.

Sites with an EPA ‘permission’ (such as a licence or permit) may have specific odour-management obligations, including controls and monitoring arrangements. These include landfills and waste treatment facilities, and may include some manufacturing facilities.

Small and medium businesses which don’t have a site licence or permit are nonetheless subject to the EPA GED odour obligations and must understand and manage odour risks as far as reasonably practicable.

What should you do if you receive an informal odour complaint?

Even if your business does not require an EPA licence or permit, you should immediately respond to any odour complaint. The initial response should include the following:

  1. Complainant details. For example, name, address, contact numbers
  2. Wind direction
  3. Temperature
  4. Time of day
  5. What activities were being undertaken.

This should be followed by taking steps to fix the problem. GEDedge can help you understand to do next.

GED General Environmental Duty land contamination

What if a complaint is made to EPA?

If a formal complaint is made to EPA, you can expect a rigorous assessment of your business (see above). This assessment will include consideration of other odour sources in your local area, the typical odour duration, and the effect of wind among other things.

Following this assessment, your business may be required to adopt and maintain controls to manage the odour according to an assessment of what is ‘reasonably practicable’. These include: physical controls (such as stacks), biological and filter controls (such as microbial processes), and chemical controls (such as oxidation processes).

GEDedge has significant experience from the water industry where odour from wastewater treatment plants and the sewerage network is subject to substantial regulatory obligations. In most cases, if your business is not licensed or permitted, these obligations are avoided. However, if your business is subject to an odour complaint, EPA will be guided by the full suite of compliance obligations to determine its response.

It is best to get on the front foot. If you are unsure if a licence or permit is required by your business, your business activities are odour-generating, or you have already received informal complaints, contact GEDedge.


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