SEPP 55 – Expect the unexpected

When undertaking SEPP 55 Contamination Assessments you never know exactly what you may find when you attend a site.  Many of our long term clients such as Land Developers understand the process and risks very well however to clients not familiar with the process it can be somewhat confusing why their Council is requesting a report for Contamination for their Development Application.

The reason for a request from council for a SEPP 55 contamination assessment, also called a Preliminary Site Investigation or Stage 1 Contamination Assessment is to determine if the site has the potential to be Contaminated.

Contamination can be as a result of past land use practices such as; orchards, mechanical workshops, petrol stations, market gardens, illegal dumping, certain manufacturing, dry cleaners and even home based businesses to name but a few. The contamination source can be from undertaking a Potentially Contaminating Activity on the site by a previous owner decades in the past and there may be no obvious evidence of contamination being present. Sometimes a source of contamination can be from adjoining sites whereby their activities may contaminate their neighbours.

The reason Councils often request such assessments be undertaken is to ensure that a site is safe for its intended use. The most obvious example to provide here is a proposed Child Care Centre. As young children will often come into contact with soil it is important to ensure there is no soil contamination from items such as heavy metals, asbestos, pesticides or other contaminants.

Below is an example of an obvious item of potential concern being dumped drums and other associated debris from machinery servicing. Activities such as these can result in contamination of surrounding soil. When purchasing a property or developing or changing a properties use it is important to consider former uses which may have resulted in contamination to the soil or ground water.


A more extreme example is provided below of a bore hole near to a workshop at an older Petrol Station where we recently undertook a Stage 2 Detailed Site Investigation. This shows heavy oil contamination within 1 metre of the surface. Whilst it is not unusual to find contamination at former Service Station Sites the level of contamination encountered was unusual.


By requesting a Contamination Report council is aiming to identify any risks early to protect people and property.

Hopefully this provides some background and understanding as to why Council may have requested a SEPP55 report as part of your development application.

Please give us a call to discuss your specific application and order your assessment.



SEPP55 Preliminary Site Investigation

SEPP55 Preliminary Site Investigations and Detailed Site Investigation for Contamination – you never know what you may find – or be purchasing.

When undertaking Preliminary Site Investigations (PSI) and Detailed Site Investigations (DSI) in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, (or any older industrial area) you never know exactly what you may find when you attend a site.  A recent Detailed Site Investigation in the Ryde Local Government Area (Rydalmere) in Sydney detected large quantities of Asbestos sheeting buried under the concrete slab in an industrial building of 1960’s vintage.  It appeared that the Asbestos was laid out before the slab was laid as Asbestos was found directly below the slab as shown in the photo below. Asbestos is commonly found when understanding assessments and buried asbestos is a real concern when purchasing a property. Purchase of older industrial or former industrial properties or farms can be a particular risk and it is extremely important purchasers of such properties undertake a high level of Due Diligence. We have found high levels of buried Asbestos on a farm for which there were no previous records or evidence which resulted in the new owner incurring an expensive clean-up of the site as part of the redevelopment of the site. As clean-up costs can very quickly run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, (the clean-up described above came to nearly a million dollars), it is very important not to purchase a property which is a liability.  For at least the last 20 years in North America banks have not provided loans to customers purchasing properties such as these without a contamination report which indicates that the property is unlikely to have contamination. Australian banks in the last few years have been starting to request these assessments be undertaken for properties which are high risk such as former petrol stations and dry cleaners. It is best to undertake your own enquiries and assessments even if you are a cash purchaser or the lender is not requesting a contamination report.

Why not give us a call when purchasing a property to assist you with following a sound Due Diligence process in order to fully consider the risks of potential contamination.

Visible Asbestos Pieces found under a concrete slab of a 1960’s industrial building in Rydalmere, Sydney NSW


What is a Certified Practicing Ecological Consultant ?

This is a Ecological Consultant who undertakes work in  NSW and is accredited under the scheme by the Ecological Consultants Association of NSW.  This accreditation scheme has been developed in consultation with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.  Members who are accredited Ecological Consultants must have at least 5 years full time Ecological Consulting experience in the last 5 years.  Consultants generally have much more than this and as part of the accreditation process consultants have to demonstrate their experience and adherence to the code of ethics.  Applications are reviewed by a panel and professional development is a condition of continuing practice accreditation.

So whether you require a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report, 5 part or 7 part test, or any other flora or fauna or ecological assessment, choosing a CPEC provides you with a highly qualified professional for your Ecological Assessment.

With a CPEC in our practice with full time experience since 1992 why not give us a call for your next Ecological Assessment.  As Environmental Consultants based in Sydney we cover all areas of NSW. We are also accredited assessors under the accreditation scheme by the NSW Government for implementation of the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme under the Biodiversity Conservation Act which came into force in August 2017.

NEWS – Biodiversity Offsets Scheme

Western Sydney interim designated areas to be extended for 12 months

The following western Sydney local government areas have been declared as Interim Designated Areas (IDAs) for a further 12 months: Camden, City of Campbelltown, City of Fairfield, City of Hawkesbury, City of Liverpool, City of Penrith and Wollondilly. An amendment to the Biodiversity Conservation (Savings and Transitional) Regulation 2017 is being progressed to defer commencement of the biodiversity offsets scheme for local development in these local government areas until 25 November 2019.

The relevant Councils have been advised and provided with some information addressing common questions around assessment and offsetting processes for development applications in an IDA.

Biodiversity offsets scheme commencing for local development for former IDA areas

On 25 November 2018, the biodiversity offsets scheme will commence for local development in the Cessnock, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Central Coast and Coffs Harbour local government areas, and in the West Dapto Urban Release Area in the Wollongong local government area.

The biodiversity impacts of new development applications (or modifications) submitted from 25 November 2018 in these areas will be assessed in accordance with the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2017.

So What Does this Mean for our Clients

If you are located in one of the Interim Designated Areas you can still lodge under the old legislative requirements for your Flora and Fauna Reports including the 7 Part Test of Significance.  If you are in an area where the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme is already in place or is commencing you will be required to determine if you are having a significant impact through the 5-part test of significance and whether you require a Biodiversity Development Assessment Report for offsetting.

As certified assessors we are here to assist our clients with sound advice to achieve their project objectives.

As experienced Sydney based Environmental Consultants we also offer a range of other services includingVegetation Management Plans, Bushland Regeneration, Contamination Assessments (SEPP 55), and Effluent Disposal Reports.  These types of assessments are generally required for most developments and as such when contacting our company you have one point of contact to provide professional advice and services for many of the assessments you will require.

Give us a call today to discuss your project on 1300 320 507.