Contaminated Land Management sub-programs and support programs

Contaminated Land Management sub-programs

The sub-programs within the Contaminated Land Management Program aim to assist in the remediation of identified contaminated sites and the identification and assessment of potentially contaminated sites.

Innocent Owners Scheme

Soon after the establishment of the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 (CLM Act), it was identified that some contaminated sites with the potential to cause serious harm to human health or the environment may not be cleaned up due to the lack of a responsible party with the financial capacity to undertake the remediation. In December 2000, the Environmental Trust agreed to establish a three-year program (from 1 July 2001) providing $2.5 million each year to target the clean-up of contaminated sites that pose a significant risk of harm under the then section 9 of the CLM Act and which are owned by innocent parties.

The first project under the Innocent Owners Scheme

The Environmental Trust provided funding to clean up a residential property in Banksia to demonstrate the type of site that would be clearly eligible for assistance under the proposed program.

The property was affected by fill material contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons which most likely occurred in the late 1950s from an unknown source. It was discovered when the owners demolished their old residence and proposed to build a new family home. The EPA determined that the chlorinated solvents in the fill, an inhalation hazard, posed a significant risk of harm under the CLM Act. Advice from NSW Health, at the time, was that the fill should not be disturbed and therefore the family was unable to proceed with building their new home. They were unable to secure bank finance to remediate and build because of the contamination identified on the block. The family was living in rental accommodation while site investigations were carried out, and their financial burden was substantial.

Rockdale City Council originally agreed to obtain quotes and project-manage the remediation but the council later withdrew from the project. In July 2001, the EPA requested NSW Department of Public Works and Services to project-manage the remediation and select an appropriate contractor. The Environmental Trust provided a total of $174,828 for the remediation and project management. The successful works undertaken were excavation, validation and off-site disposal of the contaminated material.

Council Gasworks Remediation Program

The operation of former gas manufacturing plants has left a legacy of contamination of soil, groundwater and, in several cases, impacted adjoining sites. The Council Gasworks Program was established to assist typically regional councils with the remediation of former gasworks sites for which they are responsible and which present the greatest risk of harm to human health and the environment. Funding assists with investigation and remediation works which mitigate harm from serious contamination. 

The Tarcutta Street Gasworks Project below is one example of a successful project funded under the Council Gasworks Remediation Program. This site  was cleaned up at a cost of over $12 million, making it one of the most expensive remediation projects ever undertaken by a regional council in NSW.

Tarcutta Street Gasworks, Wagga Wagga

Tarcutta contaminated site clean-up

Remediation of contaminated land at Tarcutta Street Gasworks in Wagga Wagga. Photo: EPA

The Tarcutta Street Gasworks operated between 1818 and 1964, and the first attempt at site remediation was in the 1970s. However, over time, tar and other contaminants migrated from the site to a nearby recreational area and into the Murrumbidgee River.

As the impact to the river was unacceptable, the EPA declared the gasworks a remediation site (now known as a Significantly Contaminated Site) in 2007.

The Environmental Trust and the EPA, through the Council Gasworks Program, has provided over $1 million in grants to assist Wagga Wagga City Council with the investigation and clean-up works, which began in 2007.    

‘The Tarcutta Street Gasworks is one of the most significant remediation projects ever undertaken by a council in a regional area and I congratulate the council on their investment so far and the commitment they have given to the local community’, said EPA Manager Contaminated Sites Niall Johnston.

The Tarcutta Street site has now been redeveloped and returned for public use.

Derelict Underground Petroleum Storage Systems – Council Road Reserve Program

Leaking underground tanks are the largest source of contaminated land in NSW. Leaking fuel contaminates adjacent premises and often drinking water resources, particularly in rural areas.

The Derelict Underground Petroleum Storage Systems – Council Road Reserve Program follows a proactive, staged approach to identifying, investigating and remediating derelict underground petroleum storage systems (UPSS) located within council road reserves.  It involves engaging regional councils as major stakeholders in the derelict UPSS issues which they have inherited. The need for remediation will be driven by human and environmental health risks and requirements under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2008. 

Councils participating during 2015-16

Regional Capacity Building Program

Local government is the EPA’s main partner in preventing and dealing with legacy contamination. The appropriate management of contaminated land is critical to maintaining a healthy environment and healthy community within NSW.

Ongoing interaction with regional councils has revealed that they often face resourcing constraints and may not have the capacity to manage contaminated land issues.

This project is a sub-program of the Contaminated Land Management Program funded by the NSW Environmental Trust, which provides capacity and assistance for the management of contaminated sites in regional and rural NSW.

The key objectives of the program are:

  1. to improve the management of non-regulated contaminated sites in regional areas of NSW
  2. to improve access to contaminated site expertise and increase the technical capacity of local government in regional areas.

The project provides funding of up to $150,000 per year for three years to each regional grouping of councils selected to take part in the program. The funding is used to employ a contaminated land project officer for each council group.  Each group provides office accommodation and employee-related support for their officer. Funding eligibility is not limited to Regional Organisations of Councils; other groups may be invited to take part.

The successful council groups in 2014 were

The tasks that contaminated land project officers carry out include

  • providing guidance and assistance to planning staff when presented proposals include elements of site contamination
  • assisting the development of contaminated sites policies
  • preparing registers (e.g. through any historical or other available information) for the council areas
  • preparing a risk matrix of known contaminated sites within the area and considering if any known sites should be notified to the EPA
  • overseeing any remediation projects which may be conducted within the region
  • conducting/facilitating educational workshops for other staff within the councils
  • improving the knowledge of UPSS management and compliance in regional councils
  • preparing support documentation and conducting training to council staff in improve the long term contaminated land capacity of the regions
  • liaising regularly with the NSW EPA and Contaminated Land Management Program Manager, including in relation to the technical assistance where required and on grant progress and acquittal

Selection process

All regional councils were considered and prioritised by the EPA based on

  • the environmental sensitivity of the region
  • identified contaminated sites issues
  • area specific contaminated sites issues known to the EPA
  • a willingness to participate as a group of councils

The final selection was based on a decision made by the Contaminated Land Management Sub Committee. 

Regional Acceleration Program

The aim of the Regional Acceleration Program is to assist and lead rural and regional landowners through the process of obtaining the technical information necessary for an appropriate submission to the EPA. This includes a centralised point of contact and specialist technical assistance to ensure landowners obtain the right information in a cost-efficient manner, so the EPA’s regulatory assessment can be carried out.

Preventative and education programs

Collectively, the CLM Program aims to improve the community’s management of legacy contaminated sites in regional areas of NSW, through improving local technical capacity, providing an impetus to remediate land notified under the Contaminated Land Management Act and improve the resolution and management associated with potentially contaminating industries in regional areas.

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