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Environment Protection Authority

Frequently asked questions about contaminated land

Regulation of contaminated land

When do I have to notify the EPA of contamination?

Section 60 of the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 (CLM Act) requires the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to be notified of contamination. See Guidelines on the Duty to Report Contamination under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997.

People may also report land contamination or pollution incidents by contacting Environment Line (131 555 or info@environment.nsw.gov.au).

What is meant by a 'contamination that is significant enough to warrant regulation' determination?

The EPA determines whether contamination is significant enough to warrant regulation under the CLM Act. In making this decision, it considers a range of factors, including those listed in section 12 of the CLM Act.

If you have any questions about the determination, contact the EPA on 131 555 or email: contaminated.sites@epa.nsw.gov.au.

What happens if the EPA has reason to believe that contamination is 'significantly contaminated land'?

Where the EPA has reason to believe that contamination at a site is significant enough to warrant regulation, it may declare the site to be 'significantly contaminated land' in accordance with section 11 of the CLM Act.

The EPA is also able to issue management orders or approve appropriate voluntary management proposals, with or without conditions, which anyone can put forward.

In some cases, the EPA may decide that the contamination risks can be addressed through the planning process, in which case regulation under the CLM Act may not necessarily be required.

The EPA is required to have regard to the 'polluter pays' principle in pursuing the investigation and clean-up of contaminated land.

What sort of information about contamination should local councils be recording on section 149 certificates?

Guidance on the use of section 149 planning certificates is available in section 5 of Managing Land Contamination: Planning Guidelines - SEPP55 - Remediation of Land (Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and NSW EPA 1998) as part of the planning process. 

Are offsets an alternative to the management or remediation of significantly contaminated land?

No. Offset programs do not preclude the need to remediate land contamination. The EPA has a duty to regulate significant land contamination to ensure that all necessary site remediation is carried out. Offset programs complement these requirements.

What are reasonable assumptions for 'substantial' home-grown produce intake (fruits and vegetables)?

Reasonable assumptions for 'substantial' home-grown produce intake (fruits and vegetables) are a minimum of 10% and a maximum of 50% with an average assumption of 35%.

Site auditor scheme

What is a site auditor?

Site auditors are individuals accredited by the EPA under Part 4 of the CLM Act. In order to be accredited, they must demonstrate extensive knowledge and experience in relation to the investigation, remediation and monitoring of contaminated sites. See the current list of accredited site auditors.

What does a site auditor do?

The role of the site auditor is to carry out an independent review of the work of the contaminated land consultant.

A site audit is a review of any or all stages of the site investigation and remediation process. The information provided by a site audit can assist landholders, developers and planning authorities to make decisions about the appropriate use of a contaminated site.

What is the outcome of a site audit?

The material outcome of a site audit is a certificate called a site audit statement and an accompanying site audit report that provides information about the site contamination reviewed by the auditor and provides the basis for the conclusions contained in the site audit statement.

What is a statutory site audit?

A statutory site audit is defined in s.47 of the CLM Act. Generally, any site audit which is a requirement imposed by or under legislation is a 'statutory' site audit. Only a site auditor accredited by the EPA under the CLM Act can undertake a statutory site audit.

When is it mandatory to use an accredited site auditor under the CLM Act?

When there is a statutory requirement for a site audit, you must engage a site auditor accredited under Part 4 of the CLM Act.

How and when do I engage a site auditor?

Site auditors can be approached directly by any person interested in engaging their services. See the current list of accredited site auditors.

It is recommended that a site auditor is engaged early in the investigation or remediation process to ensure that their comments can be taken into account during the process. Otherwise, if the site auditor is not completely satisfied with the extent of work undertaken by a consultant, there can be delays while the necessary additional works are conducted.

Contaminated land: record of notices

Why isn't a site on the contaminated land: record of notices even though I know the EPA is involved in it?

A site will be on the contaminated land: record of notices only if the EPA has issued a regulatory notice in relation to the site under the CLM Act. The EPA may be in the process of determining whether contamination at the site is significant enough to warrant regulation but a regulatory notice may not have yet been issued (see regulation of contaminated sites). Alternatively, the agency may be involved in a site through regulation under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act). If that is the case, the site should be on the POEO public register

The EPA is also involved with some contaminated sites which are managed by means other than the CLM Act or POEO Act, for instance through the planning process. In these cases the EPA may be involved in an advisory capacity but not regulating the investigation or remediation of the site.

NSW has many contaminated sites. Why are there relatively few on this record?

The record relates only to contaminated sites where the contamination is significant enough to warrant regulation and the EPA has issued a notice under the CLM Act. Other contaminated sites may be addressed by local councils through the planning process in accordance with State Environmental Planning Policy 55 (SEPP 55) under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The contamination may also be the subject of regulatory action under the POEO Act.

I want to know if there have been any new notices issued or old notices revoked in my area.

The contaminated land public record allows you to search by date. Simply type in the date range which you are interested in. You can leave it open-ended to find everything before or after a certain point. This search will show all notices that have either been issued or revoked during that period. Note that the first notices were issued in 1987. For dates after 2000 the search will accept a two-digit year but for earlier dates you need to enter a four-digit year. Be sure to use the Australian date format (day/month/year). You can use a date search with other options to narrow your search.

Why aren't all suburbs listed in the 'Suburb' search field?

Only suburbs containing one or more sites which appear on the record are listed in the 'Suburb' search menu. If a suburb does not appear, it indicates that there are no sites listed on the public record within that suburb. To confirm this, you can also search under the relevant NSW local government area, all of which are listed in the 'LGA' search menu.

My site has been cleaned up. Why is it still on the record of notices?

Section 58 of the CLM Act requires the EPA to keep a record of all the notices it has issued. Notices that have been revoked by the EPA are noted on the record as 'former' notices. Notices are revoked where the requirements they contain have been met or the notice is no longer in force for some reason, such as where the company who received the notice has subsequently been wound up. 

The notice issued for my site has been complied with so why is the notice still recorded as current?

The EPA may consider revoking an order or declaration (notice) issued under the CLM Act if there is reason for it to believe that contamination at the site is not significant enough to warrant regulation. If you believe this is the case but the notice is still recorded as current, contact the EPA on 131 555 or by email at: contaminated.sites@epa.nsw.gov.au. Orders or declarations are revoked by another order or declaration.

I think I've found some incorrect information in the record. What should I do?

While all care is taken with the quality of the information in the record, it is possible that it will contain some errors. Please contact the EPA on 131 555 or by email at contaminated.sites@epa.nsw.gov.au to have the information corrected.

Does the record include any sites that are not in NSW?

No. Only sites in NSW can be regulated by the EPA under the CLM Act.

Page last updated: 14 May 2014