Please note that this section of the manual may contain out-of-date information. It has been retained to provide general information until a revised version is available. For further up-to-date information on this topic please contact the EPA.
AIM OF THIS DOCUMENT
This document has been written to help ensure that smash repairers meet their obligations to prevent and minimise pollution. It describes the different ways pollution may occur in the industry, and offers some recommendations for controlling this pollution. The smash repair industry is a potentially serious polluter because of the toxic nature of some of the materials used on a daily basis.
Any liquid that falls on a road or gutter eventually enters a stormwater drain and ends up in our waterways. Under the law it is an offence to place material in a position that would allow it to enter the waterways and pollute the environment.
Strictly speaking, it is an offence to wash a car in any place where the water drains into the stormwater system. Washing cars on commercial premises, where more detergents are likely to be used and more pollution generated, is a more serious offence.
On smash repair premises, as on any other commercial premises, it is an offence to:
- wash a car (whether detergents are used or not) in any place where the water drains into the stormwater system
- allow oil, grease or other pollutants (such as from wet rubbing vehicles) to enter stormwater drains.
To prevent stormwater pollution, smash repair operators should:
- keep stormwater drains clean and free from any pollutants or debris
- stop all flammable solvents from entering the stormwater system
- clean up spilt liquids with absorbent material (such as diatomaceous earth)
- dry-sweep floors wherever possible and put sweepings in the waste management bin; if the floor must be wet-mopped, the waste must not be poured down the stormwater system.
Substances such as solvents, oils, radiator coolant, paints, dirt and road grime can block sewer pipes, harm sewerage workers, affect treatment processes and sometimes pass through treatment plants and out into our rivers or oceans.
If smash repairers want to dispose of wastes (such as water from car, engine and floor washing) into the sewer they will have to obtain approval (generally known as a Trade Waste Agreement) from their local sewerage authority. Conditions the authority is likely to place on entering the agreement would typically include:
- the installation of equipment to remove suspended matter, oil, grease, and any other pollutants the authority specifies
- regular cleaning and maintenance of the system and testing of the effluent
- placing carport-style roofs over the vehicle washing area and using bunding in the form of speed humps around the area, to stop stormwater entering the sewer
- making sure all external gully traps or unsealed entry points to the sewerage system are at least 2.5 cm above the surrounding ground, to prevent stormwater entering the sewer.
Smash repairers should put in their applications for a Trade Waste Agreement before fully committing themselves to their businesses, as it is not guaranteed that the sewerage authority will grant a permit.
Most smash repair facilities are not scheduled premises under the Noise Control Act 1975. This means that council is usually the authority responsible for noise control.
Only authorised officers may officially assess whether a noise is offensive. A good practical test is to listen at the boundary of the property; if the noise is excessive at any point on the boundary, there is cause for concern.
To minimise noise pollution, smash repairers should:
- be careful with noise at night as well as during the day
- not leave equipment running overnight unless measures are taken to reduce noise levels
- replace worn parts in air compressors and air conditioning systems
- ensure employees keep the premises closed and leave quietly if they are working council-approved extended hours.
The comfort of neighbours should be considered at all times.
Smash repair facilities are generally not classified as scheduled premises under the Clean Air Act 1961. As a result it is usually the local council that will need to require the smash repairer to prevent any emissions that contravene the Act. The EPA has similar powers.
Under the law smash repairers must take all possible precautions to prevent or minimise air pollution. Air pollution includes dust, vapours, ash and odours. Preventive measures include:
- ensuring all paint spraying is done inside SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover)-approved spray booths
- changing the filters in the booths regularly and ensuring the water level is maintained
- making sure solvent vapours from spray booths and paint mixing areas are adequately dispersed through exhaust vents that meet council and EPA specifications; the vents should discharge away from neighbours' windows or gathering areas
- ensuring dust does not blow outside
- keeping solvent and paint tins closed as much as possible
- reducing vapour loss from solvent recovery systems
- making sure the combustion system of any burner (such as those used to heat the spray booth) is maintained and certified at least annually by a competent combustion engineer.
Again, smash repairers should be encouraged to consider the comfort and amenity of their neighbours at all times.
If you can smell an odour within three metres of an exhaust vent there is likely to be a problem; of course this three metres cannot extend beyond the boundary of the property. A strong smell of vapours is a warning sign of an explosive buildup.
Chemicals such as freon have been used extensively in air conditioning systems and as propellants for aerosols; other chemicals such as halons and BCFs have been used in fire extinguishers. These chemicals are non-toxic and non-flammable, but can produce free chlorine and bromine in the upper atmosphere that breaks down the earth's protective layer, ozone, to oxygen. One molecule of one of these compounds can decompose thousands of molecules of ozone, and many of the compounds continue to be active for years.
Discharging any ozone-depleting gas into the atmosphere is an offence; this includes discharge from most air conditioning systems. Only an authorised technician may discharge and recharge such systems.
'Ozone friendly' gases are now becoming available in car air conditioning systems; they can, and should, be recycled.
Similarly, the gas from other air conditioning systems (such as room air conditioning systems and refrigerators) should be discharged only by an authorised technician. There are some exceptions for some recently made air conditioners.
Remember, it is an offence to discharge any ozone-depleting gas into the atmosphere.
Smash repairers have excellent opportunities to recycle and should be encouraged to do so.
- Solvent recovery units should be installed; make sure they are away from non-flameproof electrics or ignition points.
- If a solvent recovery unit is not available, discarded solvents should be placed in drums for collection by a specialist, not in the waste bin.
- Plastic parts should be repaired rather than discarded where possible.
- Paper, cardboard and other packing items should be recycled.
Under the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act 1989, it is an offence to dispose of waste in a manner harmful to the environment. It is also an offence to let a substance leak or spill in a way that may harm the environment. If harmful substances do leak or spill from containers, the owners of the container, or the owner-occupier of the land where the container is situated, will face penalties.
If smash repairers use bins that are collected by a waste collection contractor, they must ensure that:
- the waste collector is licensed
- only waste suitable for a clean landfill tip is put in the bin
- the waste collector can provide a yearly statement to prove that the waste has been disposed of legally.
The waste contractor's bin should not be used for:
- oils, solvents, partly used paints, flammable materials, other liquids or sludges (oil-stained rags are acceptable)
- more than two car tyres per bin
- toxic materials, including paint residues, particularly if they contain lead.
Other measures the smash repairer should take are listed below.
- The wastewater cleaned out of the base of a downdraft spray booth should be treated as a toxic waste and disposed of by the waste collection contractor.
- The waste bin should be kept in a secure area or locked; the repairer may be held responsible for objectionable material someone else puts in the bin.
The waste collection contractor or the EPA can give further information on disposing of any floor washings or other contaminated liquid or solid wastes.
Soil contamination is another serious issue for owners and tenants of smash repair premises. Under the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 the EPA can order the occupier to take 'prescribed remedial action' (such as removing any contamination). Sometimes the remedial action can cost more than the land.
Soil is often contaminated by irresponsible disposal of oil, radiator coolant, paint, solvents and other chemicals on the ground.
If contamination form the soil enters the watertable and pollutes neighbouring areas, the owner or occupier of the property may be subject to serious liability claims from neighbours, as well as to legal action by the local council or the EPA.
If the workshop has an underground petrol tank, particular care must be taken with possible leakage from the tank and during the filling operation.
THE COST OF POLLUTING
Penalties for polluting can be imposed under various Acts. The most severe penalties are those imposed under the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act 1989. Penalties of up to $1,000,000 can be imposed on companies, and individuals face fines of up to $250,000 and up to 7 years' imprisonment.
Individuals or employers responsible for anyone found guilty of polluting the environment may also be prosecuted, and may have to pay substantial restoration costs. The directors, managers, and all employees, as well as the company, can be liable to prosecution under this Act.
The Act also provides for on-the-spot fines of up to $600 for minor offences. The penalties may be applied to the owners as well as the occupiers of the land, and the courts have sometimes ruled that companies may not reimburse an employee's fine.
The Act encourages companies to examine their operations and correct any problems. Companies are encouraged to train employees to prevent pollution.
The smash repair industry has serious responsibilities to prevent or minimise pollution of water, noise, air and soil.
Authorised officers should be aware of these responsibilities so that they can help members of the industry meet their legal and moral obligations to protect the environment.
For further information about the EPA's policy on the environmental responsibilities of the smash repair industry, contact your nearest office of the EPA. Branches are listed in the front of this manual.
The following Acts and Regulations relating to the environment affect the smash repair industry.
Protection of the Environment (Administration) Act 1991
Pollution Control Act 1970
Pollution Control Regulations 1985
Clean Air Act 1961
Clean Air Regulations 1964
Clean Air (Control of Refuse Burning) Regulation 1988
Clean Waters Act 1970
Clean Waters Regulations 1972
Noise Control Act 1975
Noise Control Regulations 1975
Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985
Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Regulations 1985
Environmental Offences and Penalties Act 1989
Waste Disposal Act 1970
Water Board (Corporatisation) Act 1994
Water Board (Trade Waste) Regulations 1989
Water Supply Authorities Act 1987
Waste Service NSW Registration and Licensing Regulations
Ozone Protection Act 1989
Ozone Protection Regulation 1991
Unhealthy Building Land Act 1990
Local Government Act 1993 and relevant By-laws
These publications are generally available from the Government Information Service NSW.
The EPA has prepared this document for the manual in good faith, exercising all due care and attention. No representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for purpose of this document in respect of any user's circumstances. Users of this document should carry out their own investigations and where necessary seek appropriate expert advice in relation to their situations. This document should be read in conjunction with other documents in this manual, and any other legislation and/or policies within which authorised officers operate; for example, Local Government officers should also refer to such legislation as the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979, the Local Government Act 1993 and Occupational Health & Safety legislation, as well as specific Occupational Health & Safety policies developed by Local Government for its employees.