Wed 29 Mar 2017

Pilot Program – Environmental Protection Officers planned for Local Councils:

Andrews Labor Government Response to the Independent Inquiry into the Environment Protection Authority

Following the independent inquiry into the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, the Victorian State Government released the Response to the the Independent Inquiry into the EPA.

The report covers 48 recommendations for how EPA Victoria can better manage new and future environmental challenges, and how the department can be a more effective environmental regulator.

State Government has allocated $45.5 million over the next 18 months to an extensive reform program; part of which has been assigned to the following allocations:

Extra funding for EPA

  • $6.5 million to strengthen EPA’s prosecution strategy and fund more investigators, environment protection officers and legal staff
  • $3.3 million to deliver improvements in how EPA uses technology to communicate, including the development of a new digital strategy and $2.4 million to develop a database of legacy contamination risks (i.e. pre-existing contaminated sites)
  • $4.8 million to pilot new ways to respond to local noise, dust and odour issues through a network of local government environment protection officers
  • $4.8 million to provide an expanded, specialist environmental public health team within EPA
  • $1.5 million to strengthen EPA’s role in strategic land-use planning.

Of the 48 recommendations in the Response Document, three are based around a commitment of $4.8 million to deliver a pilot Local Government  Environmental Protection Officer program in 2017-18.

This proposal involves establishing a new statewide network of local government environmental protection officers, authorised under the Environmental Protection Act 1970, with statutory roles to address localised pollution and waste complaints, litter, noise and other environmental impacts.

The success of the pilot program will determine future investment in local environmental protection officers.

Currently, development of the pilot program is in its early stages. EPA Victoria is in the process of identifying and prioritising Victorian local governments that will receive an environmental protection officer allocation.

So what does this mean for civil contractors and companies working on local government assets?

Obviously, there will be an increased EPA presence on the ground with a focus on responding to complaints and through project environmental surveillance.

Pre-qualified, panel and prospective contractors should begin tightening relationships with their local government clients.

Ensure that your client’s expectation of contractor risk management procedures are understood and your company systems meet them.

Begin discussing project specific environmental hazards and risk management approaches with the client, superintendent, and/or principle contractor in conjunction with project scope and safety considerations prior to the commencement of works.

When on site, make sure you undertake the two big “M’s” – which are:

Monitoring: it is important to implement a regular monitoring schedule of your environmental control measures in order to identify any areas where they may not be working efficiently, to the desired standard, or if they are effective at all.

Maintenance: If your environmental controls or risk management measures aren’t working or are losing efficiency, then maintenance will be required.

E.g. 1: Visual monitoring of this pipe netting can quickly determine if the control measure requires maintenance.
pic-1
E.g. 2: This rock lined channel is caked with silt after a rain event, therefore will require maintenance to ensure it continues to work effectively.
pic-2

The timing and frequency of monitoring and maintenance will depend on practicality (for example, once per week, tied in with safety monitoring), the severity of the impact (does the environmental control require immediate attention?), the legal implications (are you risking notification or prosecution by ignoring regular monitoring and maintenance?).

All companies who have licenced and certified CCF Integrated Management Systems should now ensure they have acquired the updated environmental management system suite of documents from CCF Victoria and inducted their project teams to new procedures and risk management practices contained within.

For more information or to discuss, contact CCF Environmental Field Officer Wayne Huntley on (03) 9822 0900 or at whuntley@ccfvic.com.au