The EPA is responsible for administering this legislation, in partnership with other state government agencies.
Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act
While chemicals and their use are regulated in several ways, the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 (EHC Act) is the primary legislation for specifically regulating environmentally hazardous chemicals throughout their life cycle. The Act sets out requirements for
- chemical control orders (CCOs) which are used to manage specified hazardous chemicals and chemical wastes – there are five existing CCOs in NSW which are currently being reviewed
- technology assessments, which ensure that premises treating or destroying chemicals are safe and appropriate for their purpose
- licensing of individuals or industries who manage chemicals that are subject to a CCO.
The introduction of new regulatory frameworks since the EHC Act commenced have led to changes in the way some chemicals are regulated.
- Assessments of new and existing industrial chemicals are undertaken by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)
- Contaminated sites, air and water pollution, and waste management are regulated under other specific NSW legislation
- Pesticide control and use is regulated under other specific NSW legislation.
Review of the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act
The EPA is reviewing the EHC Act to take into account
- the emergence of new technologies
- new and emerging environmentally hazardous chemical issues.
The Proposed Reforms to Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Legislation - Discussion Paper (PDF 324KB) was released for public comment in July and August 2015. The EPA received 10 submissions.
Proposed changes include
- establishing transparent schedules of environmentally hazardous chemicals, to which the EHC Act's legislative controls would apply – one schedule will adopt nationally agreed environment controls for particular chemicals
- enabling the EPA to convene an ad-hoc independent expert advisory panel or call on an independent expert when required, and recover costs from those benefitting from this expertise where appropriate
- abolishing the obsolete Hazardous Chemicals Advisory Committee
- providing the independent EPA Board with the power to grant an exemption from provisions of the EHC Act in line with the exemption power that already exists under the Pesticides Act 1999 and the POEO Act
- removing dual licensing requirement where a licensee holds an environment protection licence issued under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) relating to an activity or premises involving a chemical for which they also hold an EHC licence. If the two licences relate to the same activity as licensed under Schedule 1 of the POEO Act at the same premises they may be combined
- enabling regulations or CCOs to include notification requirements for specified chemicals
- replacing the current preamble to the Act with an objects section to bring the Act in line with modern legislation, and updating definitions
Other NSW legislation
In addition to the EHC Act, the EPA and other government agencies regulate chemicals under other legislation.
- The Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 regulates sites that are contaminated with chemical wastes that pose a significant risk of harm to human health and the environment.
- The Pesticides Act 1999 regulates and controls the use of pesticides after they are sold to minimise risks from pesticide use.
- The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 regulates chemical pollution and waste management, and specifies licensing requirements for activities including hazardous waste generation, storage and transport.
- The Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 regulates chemical air emissions from industry, wood heaters, open burning, motor vehicles and fuels.
- The Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014 regulates waste storage and transport and sets reporting and record keeping requirements for waste facilities. The regulation has special requirements for asbestos, including a special waste monitoring requirement, and prohibits the application of specified residue wastes to land where vegetation will be grown.
- The Radiation Control Act 1990 and Radiation Control Regulation 2013 regulate and control radioactive substances, radioactive sources and radiation apparatus, but do not apply to radioactive ore while it is being mined or treated.
- The Dangerous Goods (Road and Rail Transport) Act 2008 allows both the EPA and SafeWork NSW to regulate the transport of dangerous goods (other than explosives and radioactive substances) by road and rail as part of a national scheme.
- The Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 enables the EPA to regulate the management and disposal of chemical waste (PDF).
Legislation administered by Department of Primary Industries (DPI)
- The Stock Medicines Act 1989 regulates most veterinary chemical products used on animals.
- The Stock (Chemical Residues) Act 1975 and Stock (Chemical Residues) Regulation 2010 allow DPI to seize, manage and if necessary destroy livestock that has been affected by chemical residues. DPI is also able to restrict where residue-affected stock can graze.
- The Stock Foods Act 1940 imposes requirements for labelling stock foods and for contaminant standards. This includes setting Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) to protect health, environment or animal welfare.
- The Forestry Act 2012 allows DPI to regulate the marketing of chemically treated timber.
- Fertilisers are regulated under the Fertilisers Act 1985
Legislation relating to food, health and work safety
- SafeWork NSW through the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, regulates the health, safety and welfare of people in workplaces. Safework’s Model Code of Practice-Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace helps businesses manage health and safety risks associated with hazardous chemicals.
- The Pharmaceutical Services Branch of NSW Health administers the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act and Regulation to ensure that medicines are safely stored, distributed, prescribed and supplied.
- The NSW Food Authority regulates and monitors food safety throughout the supply chain under the Food Act 2003.