Case Study – EPA Compliance Inspections and Stormwater Management PlansCat McCarthy
How to assess and maintain interim controls to reduce environmental pollution risks at your commercial premises
In early 2022, approximately 12,000L of chemicals from an industrial facility filtered through a stormwater drain into Cherry Lake, Altona and as a result of the pollution killed hundreds of fish, eels and other wildlife. As a consequence of that incident, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is targeting commercial premises in Melbourne West’s industrial areas by conducting compliance inspections and audits ensuring stormwater management plans are in place to prevent further pollution of local waterways and catchments.
McCarthy Plumbing Group has been engaged by businesses issued with EPA improvement notices and is working in collaboration with Environmental Consultants to ensure these businesses have stormwater management systems in place to ensure their operations will not cause harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste from their trade wastewater. We are experienced stormwater management plan plumbers in Melbourne.
Assessing polluted stormwater hazards at industrial premises
When conducting compliance auditing, Environmental Protection Authority Authorised Officers follow a remedial powers process when enforcing the Environmental Protection Act (2017). Remedial tools used can include compliance advice (recorded in entry reports), improvement notices, prohibition notices, notice to investigate, environmental action notices, waste abatement notices, site management orders, directions and clean up powers. EPA remedial tools are distributed according to urgencies and risk of hazards to human health or the environment. Our clients have recently received compliance advice and improvement notices.
Every industrial site is different; thus every entry report and improvement notice will be different. However, the most common cause of risk of pollution to our waterways that we encounter is through contaminated wastewater discharging through stormwater drains beyond a premise’s boundary. This occurs when a stormwater pit is unprotected. EPA released a fact sheet that offers guidance in best practice prevention of stormwater pollution occurring; Preventing liquid leaks and spills from entering the environment.
The EPA promote the following steps when assessing an industrial premises for stormwater pollution hazards:
- Identify the Risks
- Identify all potential pollution leak or spill hazards
- Identify risk reduction strategies
- Prepare an incident management plan in case of emergency
- Inform your team of the incident management processes
- Site Management
- Prevent leaks and spillage of chemicals
- Contain them on your boundary (spill kit etc)
- Contain outdoor areas ensuring only stormwater leaves the boundary
- Divert all contaminated/polluted stormwater
- Audit storage containers regularly
- Maintain site management records
- Liquid storage
- Don’t store toxic chemicals near waterways, or on unsealed surfaces
- Prevent spillages by utilizing secondary containment systems, these include bunds (raised walls, curbs, barriers etc) encasement (storing in sealed areas like other containers, larger sheds etc) and sealing surfaces (concrete, bunded pallets etc)
Non-compliance in stormwater management
Our clients were issued compliance advice and/or improvement notices due to the Authorised Officer believing that they ‘engaged in or proposes to engage in an activity that has caused or is likely to cause harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste’. Examples of these activities included:
- Turbid hydrocarbons discharging into stormwater drain
- Unprotected stormwater pits
- Unsealed surfaces for liquid storage
- No bunding or secondary containment areas for liquid storage or trade wastewater
- Inadequate surface water controls preventing discharge of pollution stormwater
- Liquid storage too close to stormwater.
Interim Solutions provided by McCarthy Plumbing Group in conjunction with EPA and Environmental Consultants
When an improvement notice is given, the EPA Authorised Officer advises the recipient of the notice of requirements with deadlines. The requirements often include immediate interim controls, and the consultation of a suitably qualified person (Environmental Consultant). McCarthy Plumbing Group works as a ‘first responder’ when EPA improvement notices are given, then assists the business with actioning the long-term stormwater recommendations given by the Environment Consultant.
After navigating the entry report, McCarthy Plumbing Group plumbers meet with the EPA Authorised Officer and our notice recipient client as a matter of urgency in order to determine the initial controls are managed; this ensures the EPA is satisfied that the client is taking the compliance notice seriously and wants to change their approach to stormwater control and environmental management.
An example of a recent interim control meeting with a Laverton North industrial business involved the implementation of a 5-step plan within 3 days of the notice to satisfy the EPA’s direction to ‘immediately maintain interim controls’;
- Locate Storm water legal point of discharge (LPoD) and map out all stormwater pits and pipework within property (37,500 square metre site)
- Temporarily cap-off legal point of discharge and hydro-jet clean all pits & pipework collecting all silt, debris and contaminated water within intermediate bulk containers (IBC’s)
- Engage an EPA approved contractor to collect the contaminated waste and dispose of waste at an EPA approved facility and provide receipts of all removal.
- Map out site and storm water pit locations and surface water draining zones to include in the provisional storm water control plan.
- Provide a temporary stormwater control plan until a permanent plan has been mapped out and approved by the EPA/Environmental Consultant
After the interim control phase, McCarthy Plumbing Group then works in conjunction with the Environment Consultant to action all stormwater management plan preventative activities.
Various factors needed to be taken into consideration for the completion of the environment stormwater management plan and pollution control measures including:
- Industry of operation and usage
- Products passing through the site
- Site size and limitations
- Current storage of products
- Bunding installed on site
- Current stormwater network and condition.
Stormwater management plans and their hazard controls are never a ‘one size fits all’ and differ from business to business. Often, changing the way a site operates and creating zones for different usages can reduce the overall upgrade requirements needed to comply with the EPA regulations and compliance notices. Working in collaboration, and effectively communicating with the Authorised Officer and Environmental Consultant regarding the plumbing and stormwater system is key to a successful outcome to the environment, the EPA and the client.
The end game for everyone is for no contaminated wastewater to ever leave a premises boundary, thus no likely harm caused to human health or the environment from pollution. If appropriate assessment, containment and clean up of spills and leaks to prevent pollution of a stormwater system has occurred, then the stormwater management plan is doing its job.
Reporting an incident to the EPA
If you have encountered a chemical spill or leak at your premises you should report the incident which could harm the environment. You need to stop the spill, contain the spill, report it to the EPA by calling 1300 372 842 then clean up the spill appropriately.
I’ve been issued with an EPA Improvement notice, what do I do now?
McCarthy Plumbing Group will act as ‘first responders’ in assisting you with assessing and maintaining interim controls giving to you by the EPA Authorised Officer. These controls may include capping of legal points of discharge to the stormwater outside of your boundary, educt and clean contaminated stormwater pits, assist in nominating an Environmental Consultant, clear stormwater pipes for assessment with a hydro-jet, assess stormwater collection using CCTV drain cameras, and give general plumbing and stormwater advice.
We can then assist your chosen Environmental Consultant to action the tasks in your stormwater management plan including engineer control to stop trade wastewater discharging beyond the boundary of the premises, design a stormwater management system (this can include preparation of groundworks/sealing, surface water controls, flow directions, drainage, sumps, pumps, valves, retention volumes, pipelines, legal point of discharge and attenuation systems.
If you have received an EPA improvement notice, compliance notice or any other remedial notice and require assistance in navigating the requirements to achieve compliance, McCarthy Plumbing Group can assist in preventing further water pollution occurring from your site by assessing and controlling risks to stormwater drains past your legal point of discharge.
We are situated in the Laverton North industrial area in close proximity to Kororoit Creek, Ryans Creek and Cherry Lake and are geographically central in location to assist businesses across Melbourne’s west and inner suburbs in ensuring stormwater management system compliancy. We are expert environmental protection plumbers working collaboratively with environmental consultant plumbing experts. To discuss your stormwater management plan queries on 03 9931 0905.
Remedial Powers Policy – EPA Victoria 2021, https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/what-we-do/compliance-and-enforcement/remedial-notices-and-directions
Guide to Inspection and Inquiry Powers – EPA Victoria 2021, https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1815
Preventing Liquid Leaks and spills from entering the environment- EPA Victoria 2018, https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1700
Assessing and Controlling Risk – EPA Victoria 2019, https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1695-1
Wastewater Guidance for Industry – EPA Victoria 2021 https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/prevent-water-pollution/wastewater-guidance-for-industry
Environmental Protection Act 2017 – Victorian Government 2021, https://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/in-force/acts/environment-protection-act-2017/006
Melbourne Transport and Warehousing says it is behind the spill that killed hundreds of fish in Altona waterways – news article, ABC News 23rd March 2022, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-03-23/melbourne-group-lake-fish-kill-pollution-identified/100932824