In October 2018, the EPA announced that MWOO was no longer able to be used on agricultural land, as part of mine rehabilitation or on forestry plantation land due to risks associated with chemical and physical contamination. This decision saw the EPA revoke the general and specific Resource Recovery Orders and Exemptions which allowed operators that were not licensed landfills to undertake this practice. Agricultural land users and mining companies were asked to stop applying MWOO to land and the EPA introduced a phase one transition package to assist the AWT industry and local government to minimise disruption to waste services and mitigate against the immediate impacts of the revocation.
The EPA made this decision based on six independent research studies that were undertaken by the CSIRO, Department of Primary Industries, University of Sydney, University of New England and the Office of Environment and Heritage. These studies were also peer-reviewed locally and internationally.
These studies concluded that there were limited agricultural or soil benefits from applying mixed waste organic outputs at the regulated rates, and there were physical contaminants and potential environmental risks.
The EPA formed an Independent Technical Advisory Committee in September 2017 to assess the findings of this research and provide recommendations to the EPA on how it could be used to improve policy and regulation around MWOO. The NSW EPA received the final Technical Advisory Report in late May 2018. The EPA reviewed the report and sought further information from industry, including records of the amounts and distribution of material, as well as operational information about AWT facilities.
The EPA also convened and sought specialist advice from an interagency committee, including Department of Primary Industries, NSW Health, NSW Food Authority and Office of the Chief Scientist and Engineer. This committee reviewed the information and agreed on a course of action including commissioning the Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessment (HHERA) that can be found under the key documents.