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 commencement 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 in cases where the responsible party did not have 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. The material 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. At the time, NSW Health advised that the fill should not be disturbed, so the family was unable to proceed with building their new home and 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 that the NSW Department of Public Works and Services 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 former 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 Programs

Local government and the EPA partner together to prevent contamination from current activities and manage legacy contamination in NSW. The appropriate management of contaminated land is critical to maintaining healthy environments and healthy communities within NSW.

It is demonstrated that resourcing constraints can reduce the capacity of local councils to effectively manage contaminated land issues.

The Council Regional Capacity Building Program (CRCB) is a sub-program of the Contaminated Land Management Program to fund an officer to support councils to manage contaminated sites in regional and rural NSW.

The objective of the CRCB is to improve the management of non-regulated contaminated land in regional NSW by increasing technical capabilities within local government.

Previously the program was funded by NSW Environment Trust which employed four officers located regionally to assist joint organisations of councils (see Previous CRCB Grant Program). The current phase (2018-2021) of the project provides funding from the NSW EPA of up to $140,000 per year for three years to Regional Organisations of Councils (ROCs) or groups of three or more regional councils selected to take part in the program. 

The funding will be used to employ a contaminated land project officer for each council group and council groups also are required to contribute to the support of the officers.

The tasks that contaminated land project officers may carry out include

  • developing contaminated land policies, procedures and registers
  • reviewing existing contaminated land policies and procedures and assisting in the development of such policies where a council does not have one
  • guiding and supporting planning officers on contaminated land issues
  • assisting with the handover to councils of the Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) Regulation on 1 September 2019
  • 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

Selection process

The applications for grants are being assessed against the selection criteria by an independent technical review committee (TRC) comprising representatives from industry, local government and local community.

All applications are considered and prioritised by the TRC 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

Previous CRCB Grant Program

In 2014, the CRCB program administered the previous round of grant funding of up to $150,000 per year for three years to the following four successful council groups

  • Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils (RAMROC)/ Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils (REROC)
  • Bathurst Orange Dubbo and Central NSW Salinity and Water Quality Alliance (BOD and Central SWQA)
  • Mid North Coast Regional Organisation of Councils (MIDROC)
  • Hunter Councils (awarded funding under the regional capacity building project for one year)

The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) was engaged by the Environmental Trust to evaluate the activities funded through the CLM Program. The Final Report (May 2017), found that the CRCB subprogram demonstrated good outcomes for capacity building and awareness-raising. However, the report also stated that most of these activities should be funded as core EPA business.

The EPA also conducted an evaluation against each program objectives and both evaluations are used in the development of the 2018-2021 CRCB program funded by the EPA (see Regional Capacity Building Programs).

Regional Acceleration Program

The aim of the Regional Acceleration Program was to assist rural and regional landowners through the process of obtaining the appropriate technical information necessary for a submission as required by the EPA to assess the site. The EPA's centralised point of contact provided specialist technical assistance aimed to assist landowners to obtain information, in a cost-efficient manner.

The Regional Acceleration Program continues to be resourced as core business of the EPA contaminated land management portfolio.    

Preventative and education programs

Collectively, the CLM Program focuses on prevention and education to improve the community’s management of legacy contaminated sites in regional areas of NSW.

The EPA will continue to partner with local government to improve local technical capacity and help reduce contamination risks posed by historic and potentially contaminating industries in NSW regional areas.

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