Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

EPA Connect Newsletter

Winter - July 2016

From the CEO

Barry Buffier

Since our last edition, the Premier and the Minister for the Environment have announced a Container Deposit Scheme for NSW from 2017.

You can read about it and the new anti-littering advertising campaign “Hey You Mob!” below.

You can also read about the delegations from India and the United Arab Emirates that visited the EPA's Sydney office, Cumberland Council’s Love Your Leftovers mobile app and Amiette Waikenshaw, head of the EPA’s training unit. 

I’m keen to hear your thoughts, including any suggestions for a new name, of this newsletter. What can we do better or differently? Email your thoughts to epa.connect@epa.nsw.gov.au

Regards,

Barry Buffier

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Container Deposit Scheme in the can for NSW from July next year

A 10c Container Deposit Scheme will start in NSW from July 2017

From July next year a 10 cent Container Deposit Scheme will commence in NSW to help address the 160 million beverage containers that are littered in NSW every year.

The announcement was made on May 8 by the Premier Mike Baird and Environment Minister Mark Speakman.

The scheme will apply to most beverage containers of between 150ml and 3 litres that are commonly found in the litter stream. Containers that are primarily disposed of through the kerbside recycling system, such as milk, wine and juice containers 1 litre and more, will not be eligible.

To make it easy to tell what can and can’t be claimed for a refund a CDS label will be designed which will be compulsory for all eligible NSW containers when the scheme commences.

Redemptions will be available via a network of collection points that will be established across the state and groups, such as charities, schools, sporting and not-for-profits, will have the opportunity to fund-raise through collecting containers and redeeming them for the refund.

An Implementation Working Group headed up by the EPA has been established to finalise the details of the scheme before roll-out next year.

For more information, including fact sheets and to keep up to date with developments visit the EPA CDS page on the EPA website

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Update on the state-wide investigation into PFAS contamination across NSW

EPA officers carrying out testing near the RAAF Base, Williamtown

Following the launch of the state-wide PFAS investigation program in February, the NSW EPA continues to work with a range of stakeholders to manage this legacy issue across NSW.

PFASs (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) are a group of chemicals that include perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Until recently, this group of chemicals was known as PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) but have been changed to avoid confusion with another group of ‘PFC’ chemicals (perfluorocarbons), which are relevant to climate change.

PFASs have many specialty uses due to their water, heat and grease resistance, and have been widely used in a range of industrial and consumer products in Australia and internationally since the 1950s, including firefighting foams.

Although PFASs have been phased out in many products, including firefighting foams, past use practices mean that they could still be present in the environment.

The EPA is therefore taking a precautionary approach to managing the legacy of PFAS use across NSW, focussing its investigation on sites where the greatest use of PFAS-containing products has taken place. This includes sites where PFAS-containing firefighting foams were used, such as airports, firefighting training facilities and some industrial sites.

To date, the NSW EPA has taken preliminary soil and water samples at a number of sites, and requested that further testing be carried out by the occupiers at Tamworth Regional Airport, TestSafe Londonderry, and firefighting training sites at Armidale, Deniliquin, and Albion Park. No further work is recommended at the Wellington fire training site.

The EPA has also begun work with Federal, state and private stakeholders at the Gold Coast Airport. The situation at Gold Coast Airport is complex because of the various stakeholders involved including Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd, and Airservices Australia, which is a Commonwealth agency. In addition, the airport is located on the NSW and Queensland border, which means PFAS contamination might be present in both states.

Although the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is the environmental regulator for the Gold Coast Airport site, the EPA will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure an appropriate, scientific and risk-based resolution is adopted throughout the investigation.

The EPA is also continuing its work with the Department of Defence, as Defence progresses its investigations at RAAF Base Williamtown and HMAS Albatross in South Nowra, and commences preliminary investigations at RAAF Base Richmond, RAAF Base Wagga Wagga, HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay, Holsworthy Barracks and Garden Island HMAS Stirling.

For more information about the state-wide investigation program, visit the PFAS Investigation Program on the EPA website. You can also access precautionary health advice on PFAS from the Australian Environmental Health Standing Committee by visiting the Department of Health's website.

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Hey You Mob!

Hey You Mob! anti-littering campaign

One of the great successes of the EPA's Hey Tosser! anti-littering campaign is that councils and communities can adapt the messaging to suit their local issues and audience.

Hey You Mob! is the latest adaptation of the Hey Tosser! campaign, developed by the Bourke and Enngonia Aboriginal communities with assistance from not-for-profit organisation Waste Aid

Waste Aid received a joint grant from the EPA and the Australian Packaging Covenant to develop the pilot project and work with the communities to reduce ‘big rubbish’ and ‘little rubbish’ on their lands.

What has resulted is the new Hey You Mob! campaign which features five poster designs based on messages that the community identified they wanted to say to each other about littering. It includes signs, posters and stickers for bins and cars that will be displayed in public spaces on Nulla Nulla and Murrawarri Local Aboriginal Land and Council land.  

The campagin materials will be rolled out over the coming weeks and the EPA is looking forward to seeing the impacts of the campaign on the local environment and community.

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Three-year Botany Independent Mercury Review complete

Mark Gifford speaking at the Botany community information evening

On Wednesday 6 April 2016 the EPA announced that the Botany Independent Mercury Review was complete with the release of an Environmental Health Risk Assessment by consultants Senversa.

The Senversa assessment found that the risk of mercury contamination in residential areas was low – this result backed up the findings of stages one and two of the review which have already been released. In fact, the independent testing conducted by Senversa found that the levels seen in Botany and Randwick are similar to those found in urban areas generally.

This is the culmination of a rigorous and exhaustive three-year independent investigation into community concerns about the possibility of offsite mercury contamination from historical Orica operations at Botany.

At the time of the release, the EPA's Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said that the review had been one of the ‘most thorough investigations of its type in Australia.

The results were shared with the community at an information evening on 14 April 2016 where Victoria Lazenby from Senversa told the crowd:

"We're well below the [Australian safety] criteria for all samples: fish, soil and air. The public health risk is low […] we've got a lot of confidence in that conclusion."

Local resident Ross Salter who has been a community representative in the review’s steering panel was quoted in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 16 April 2016.

"Questions have been answered. There's been excellent process."

The EPA will publish a summary report of the entire Botany Independent Mercury Review in the coming months.

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Clearing the air on air pollution in the Lower Hunter

Adam Gilligan speaking to ABC Radio, Newcastle

In April the EPA's Chair and CEO released the findings of two major air quality studies at a well attended public meeting in Newcastle. 

The Particle Characterisation Study and the Dust Deposition Study were carried out in 2014 and 2015 and were designed to provide clear, scientific information to the local community about air pollution in the Lower Hunter.

The Particle Characterisation Study was a three-year study managed through a partnership between the EPA, the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and NSW Health. The study sampled fine particles at four key sites: Newcastle, Beresfield, Mayfield and Stockton and coarse particles at Mayfield and Stockton over a 12 month period.

The OEH, CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) jointly carried out the study, sampling fine and coarse air particles at the four key sites.

The Dust Deposition Study was a community-led project the EPA initiated in partnership with the Newcastle Consultative Committee on the Environment in response to community concern about visible dust in the Lower Hunter.

The Dust Deposition study sampled visible dust at 12 locations including at; Waratah, Islington, Tighes Hill and Hamilton.

Taken together the two studies show that overall levels of air particles and dust in the region are good by world standards, but that occasionally particle levels will spike as a result of industrial activities or seasonal weather patterns

  • Sea salt was found to be the largest contributor of both fine and coarse inhalable particles at all sites but particularly at sites closest to the coast like Stockton.
  • Other sources of fine particles included sulfates and nitrates from fossil fuel burning industries, wood smoke, soil and vehicles.
  • For the dust that we see on our homes and window sills - soil and rock was the primary component, averaging about 69 per cent of all samples. Other components were coal, which made up 10 per cent, rubber and soot 4 and 3 per cent respectively. The remainder included insect and plant debris, salt and ash.
  • Seasonal trends were identified, in winter there were higher levels of wood smoke across the region, while warmer months brought higher levels of sea salt and less wood smoke.
  • Higher emissions of ammonium nitrate were recorded at Stockton and the EPA is carrying out further investigation to address this trend.

Manager for the Hunter Region, Adam Gilligan said the results have been invaluable in helping the EPA target resources as well as ensure that specific air quality programs are developed that address the key areas of concern.

“The EPA is an evidence based organisation, we can’t regulate an activity because it doesn’t seem right.  We need credible evidence on which to base our work and these new studies, delivered with the help of the community will help us to do just that,” Mr Gilligan said.

It's studies like this that show just what can be achieved when government and community work together to improve our environment.”

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Sharing knowledge and experiences with international friends

Staff from the EPA's Waste Branch met journalists from India

Staff from the NSW EPA have been able to share knowledge and experiences with delegations from India and the United Arab Emirates.

As part of the Australia-India Media Exchange Program organised by the Walkley Foundation, two senior journalists from The Deccan Chronicle and The Hindu Businessline in Bangalore met with senior staff from the Waste Branch.

The group compared waste practices in both countries and examined in detail some of the challenges we both face. There was also a chance to talk through the detail of litter-reducing programs such as the Container Deposit Scheme and Hey Tosser!

Senior staff from the EPA also spent time with their counterparts from The Environment Agency- Abu Dhabui (EAD). EAD staff are in the process of a benchmarking study comparing their work against other environmental agencies such as the US EPA, Singapore’s National Environment Agency and the NSW EPA.

"It was a really great experience to spend some time with EAD staff,” said Carmen Dwyer, Director of the Gas Branch"

"Our environments are very different but we face a lot of the same challenges, particularly around finding that balance between economic growth and environment protection."

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Stakeholder profile

The 'Love Your Leftovers' mobile phone application

Cumberland Council's Love Your Leftovers mobile phone app

You'd be hard pressed to find someone who would say 'no' to $1000, but this is the average amount that NSW households throw away in food each year. Luckily it's a problem with a simple fix: plan ahead, shop smart and use any leftovers before they go past their best.

Honing these food saving habits is easy using the mobile application, ‘Love Your Leftovers’ that has been developed by Cumberland Council with finacial support from the EPA.

Designed to complement the popular ‘Love Your Leftovers’ community cookbook the council (formally Holroyd Council) released in 2011, the ‘Love Your Leftovers app was developed after the council received a second grant in 2012 through the EPA’s Love Food Hate Waste Program.

Once downloaded onto a mobile device, users can simply search the ingredients they have left over and the app generates the perfect recipe. There is also new meal planner and shopping list functions available.

“We were really inspired by the practices that many Australians employed during times of war”, said Brooke Littman, Sustainability and Waste Education Officer with Cumberland Council said.

“There was an obvious respect for food.”

“In developing both the cookbook and app, we gathered the majority of recipes from senior residents within our local community - many of which had been passed down through families and will now be passed on to younger generations via the app,” Ms Littman continued.

“We're always on the lookout for more too. You can submit your favourite leftover recipe by visiting our website

Currently available through theApp Store for Apple devices, Cumberland Council are expanding the app to Android devices within the next month.

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Staff profile

Amiette Wakenshaw

Amiette Wakenshaw

Last year Amiette Wakenshaw was recognised for her leadership when she was awarded the AELERT Achievement Award for 2015. These awards recognise leadership and innovation in environmental regulation.  

As Head of the NSW EPA’s Training Unit, Amiette delivers investigations and regulatory training for the NSW EPA, and for other environmental regulators through the AELERT Professional Development and Training Program.

“I think there is a difference between a manager and a leader. A leader is someone who inspires. I love it when, at the end of a course, students are excited and motivated to do their jobs. That’s the part I enjoy the most, and working at EPA has given me the opportunity to guide some great regulators.”

This personal motto has contributed to her recognition across the years. She has also won the EPA/OEH Outstanding Performance Awards in 2002, 2005 and 2012, and a Spokeswoman’s Award in 2007.   

Amiette started with the NSW EPA in 1998 and has continued to be a role model in environmental regulation for nearly 18 years. Since her role as Head of the NSW EPA’s Training Unit in 2012, she has expanded the number and range of operation and technical training programs available to staff.

“EPA also manages the Professional Development & Training Program on behalf of AELERT. Each year we deliver regulatory training programs to almost 1,000 students from all around Australia.”

Amiette is also highly committed to bringing out the best in other regulators. She is not only responsible for the scope of the program, but she is also the lead trainer.

“There’s a few things I really enjoy about training. The variety in the role is great – we are always going to new places and meeting new people. Another is what I call the “light bulb moment” - the moment you see that someone really understands. 

“But most of all, I enjoy when we reach goals as a team. I want people to come on the journey.

Amiette’s team has delivered nationally accredited and best practice operational and technical training courses to over 4000 environmental regulators in every mainland jurisdiction in Australia.

“Within 5 years, I would like to see environmental regulation recognised as a profession in Australia. It would be wonderful to have staff accredited and professionalise the craft of environmental regulation.”

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EPA's regulatory action

EPA Regulation Report

The EPA has many regulatory tools it uses to achieve environmental compliance. The following table provides a tally of the regulatory actions undertaken by the EPA across the state from March to June 2016.

 

Regulatory Action   Total 
Inspections undertaken 574 
Prevention Notices Issued 
Clean-Up Actions Issued  10 
Penalty Notices Issued 

75 

Dangerous Goods = 13

Pesticides = 11

Native Vegetation = 1

POEO Act = 50

Smokey Vehicle Infringement Notices Issued  14 
Noisy Vehicle Infringement Notices Issued  55 
Infringement Notices Issued for Littering from a Motor Vehicle  2505 
Environmental Programs   65 
Environmental Improvement Programs Commenced  
Pollution Reduction Programs Commenced  37 
Other Environmental Improvement Programs Commenced   16 
Total worth  $7,050,000 
Prosecutions  43 
Prosecutions Commenced 43 
Prosecutions Completed   12 
Total financial penalties imposed  $247,910 
Enforceable Undertakings 
Enforceable Undertakings Imposed
Total Amount  $200,000

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Page last updated: 01 July 2016