Contamination Reports – Preliminary Site Assessments – SEPP55 Contamination

As Environmental Consultants in Sydney we undertake Contamination Reports for a wide range of clients for a wide range of purposes.  Often these are requested by councils for sites with a history which may indicate there is potential for contamination or for sites with an unknown site history.  Whilst some clients see this is unnecessary it is important to understand that the potential risk to human health can be high and that it is a legislative requirement for government authorities to be cautious about such risks.  For Preliminary Site Assessments and Detailed Site Assessments consent authorities are required to adhere to the requirements of legislation including SEPP 55 and the National Environmental Protection (Assessment of Contamination) Measure.  For risk management and due diligence, we highly recommend that our clients undertake at least a Tier 1 Preliminary Site Assessment (PSI) before they purchase any land.  This is because contamination is often not obvious when purchasing and once that purchase is made then the contamination and its resulting clean up cost is most often the responsibility of the new owner.  Such a liability is not something that any purchaser would knowingly accept and the clean up costs can be in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in many cases and for more highly contaminated sites in the millions.  Due diligence is highly important with any purchase and this is an area which is often overlooked.  Across North America these assessments are undertaken for almost every loan written by a bank for any property which has a potential risk of contamination and banks often will not loan a purchaser money if there is contamination present.  We recommend all land purchasers consider a Preliminary Site Assessment review.

Why do I require a Contamination Report ? (Preliminary Site Investigation or Detailed Site Investigation) ?

Please see the link below for an article with my comments etc for Australia

www.9news.com.au/national/2018/03/06/17/13/no-evidence-of-cancer-cluster-for-nsw-town-where-50-cancer-cases-exist-between-80-houses

We are often asked by clients “why are council requesting a contamination report ?”.  Why do I require a Preliminary Site Investigation under SEPP 55 ??  What is a Detailed Site Investigation ??  These recent articles on ABC News and Nine News provide an example.  The articles outline the impacts which can occur from the use of chemicals which were used frequently in the past but were not at the time of use known to be a high risk.  Now however, like asbestos risks and asbestos contamination we know the risk to be high and dangerous to human health.  In this case the chemical(s) were Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).  These are members of a group of chemicals known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Both PFOS and PFOA are very persistent in the environment.  They were used in firefighting foams by the Australian Air Force at the Williamstown Air Force Base which resulted in groundwater contamination.  The contamination means residents cannot drink their bore water or eat home-grown vegetables or eggs from farmyard chickens.  A resident has stated that banks are withholding loans in the area and valuers are not coming to site when they find out it’s in the exclusion zone.  As such, and in addition to the associated potential health risks of such contamination events, land values suffer making it more difficult to sell and lowering the price.  So why has council requested a Preliminary Site Investigation becomes quite clear when you consider that a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (Preliminary Site Investigation) is used to identify potential risks of contamination to a property.  Groundwater contamination is only one of the potential types of contamination.  Soils are often contaminated by previous use of a site or from illegal dumping which often occurs around larger cities and urban areas (particularly western Sydney).  As Environmental Consultants based in Sydney we come across contamination situations quite often.  As part of any purchase (just like a home inspection) it is well worth obtaining the services of an experienced environmental consultant to undertake an assessment of the property to determine the potential risk of contamination by way of a Phase 1 Preliminary Site Investigation report.  If there is an identified risk of potential contamination then a Phase 2 Detailed Site Investigation should be undertaken to determine if there is contamination present, it type, extent and recommended remediation.  In many countries these reports are extremely common and are linked to the mortgage application process and are requested by the banks before providing finance.  The banks protect their investment by only providing mortgages to customers purchasing a “clean” site.  Australia lags behind somewhat as this is not often a request by banks or thought of by purchasers of property.  It is however a critical part of Due Diligence with any property purchase particularly if it is a farm, disused piece of land or former industrial site or if the history of the site is uncertain.  The impacts of purchasing a contaminated piece of land can include significant health impacts and significant financial losses through clean up costs.

Extension for the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation 2017

Recently there has been an extension provided as a result of the new legislation which was implemented on the 25th of August 2017 in relation to the implementation of the Biodiversity Conservation Act and the Biodiversity Assessment Method Implementation time period.  The details of these extensions are detailed below.  This will provide developers of land more time for lodgement of Development Applications in relation to addressing the Ecological Assessments and Flora and Fauna Assessments that are required under the Biodiversity Conservation Act.  This extension grants provisions for new or existing applications to be assessed under Part 4 of the EPA&A Act.  This provides extensions until 25th August 2018 for the following designated local government areas

  • Camden,
  • City of Campbelltown,
  • City of Fairfield,
  • City of Hawkesbury,
  • City of Liverpool,
  • City of Penrith and
  • Wollondilly

We are here to assist our clients meet their time and development objectives by providing timely and profession service in relation to Flora and Fauna Assessments, Species Impact Statements and Biodiversity Offsets through the Biodiversity Assessment Method.  We provide Biodiversity Development Assessment Reports for our clients to assist in determining offsets required for the removal of listed vegetation and threatened species or their habitats

“The Minister for the Environment has made an amendment to the Biodiversity Conservation (Savings & Transitional) Regulation 2017 (BC (S&T) Regulation). The amendment extends to 6 months from commencement of the Biodiversity Act 2016 the period for which former planning provisions apply to local developments across the State. The amending regulation can be viewed online https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/regulations/2017-663.pdf and a summary of the key elements is provided below.

Transitional arrangements will continue to apply to activities under Part 5 of the EP&A Act, major projects and mining projects as outlined in the BC (S&T) Regulation.

Former planning provisions continue to apply

  • New applications for development consent or modifications to an approved development under Part 4 of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) (not including State Significant Development) will continue to be assessed under former planning provisions until 25 February 2018 in most local government areas.
  • In the seven local government areas identified as Interim Designated Areas – Camden, City of Campbelltown, City of Fairfield, City of Hawkesbury, City of Liverpool, City of Penrith and Wollondilly – new applications for development consent, or modifications to an approved development, under Part 4 of the EP&A Act will continue to be assessed under the former planning provisions until 25 August 2018.”
  • The Minister for the Environment will have until 25 February 2018 to declare additional Interim Designated Areas.
  • An amendment to the Biodiversity Conservation Regulation (Savings and Transitional) 2017 (BC (S&T) Regulation) is proposed to give effect to the intended policy that biodiversity impacts are only offset once.  OEH will keep stakeholders informed of the timing of this amendment.

Land Clearing Laws Overturned in the NSW Land and Environment Court

 

The NSW Land and Environment Court on Friday declared the government’s Land Management (Native Vegetation) Code 2017 to be “invalid and of no effect”.  The Court order means that any clearing that has been done under the invalid code since August 25, 2018 is actually unlawful,” the Environmental Defenders Office NSW said in a statement. Documents filed with the court in November 2017 by the NSW Nature Conservation Council argued Gabrielle Upton, the state’s environment minister, “failed to adequately consider the principles of ecologically sustainable development” as required by law when making the codes.

Secondly, it argued Niall Blair, primary industries minister, failed to obtain agreement from Ms Upton before making the laws.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/bungled-nsw-new-land-clearing-laws-deemed-invalid-by-court-20180309-p4z3lf.html