Water Management: Water Quality: Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy, 2003

ISSUE:

WATER QUALITY

 

Legislation Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy, 2003

 

Administered by Environment Protection Authority

 

OBJECTS OF THE ACT
  • The Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy, made under the Environment Protection Act, is designed to achieve the sustainable management of the waters of the State by protecting and enhancing water quality while still allowing for economic and social use of the resource.

 

PRINCIPAL OBLIGATIONS
  • People undertaking activities and the occupier of land must take all reasonable and practicable measures to avoid the discharge waste into any waters or onto land in a place where it is reasonably likely to enter water. If any waste is discharged into water, all reasonable and practicable steps must be taken to prevent or minimise environmental harm.
  • Not to, by discharging waste into waters, cause:
  • the loss of seagrass or other native aquatic vegetation ;
  • a reduction in numbers of any native species of aquatic animal or insect;
  • an increase in numbers of any non-native species of aquatic animal or insect;
  • a reduction in the numbers of aquatic organisms necessary to a healthy ecosystem;
  • an increase in algal or aquatic plant growth;
  • the water to become toxic to vegetation on land;
  • the water to become harmful or offensive to humans, livestock or native animals; or
  • an increase in turbidity or sediment levels.
  • Not to, by discharging or depositing a pollutant into waters, cause any applicable water quality criteria (see Appendix III/L) to be exceeded or further exceeded.
  • Not to, by discharging or depositing a pollutant into waters, cause any of the minimum water quality criteria specified in Appendix III/L to decrease.
  • Not to discharge or deposit a pollutant listed in Part 1 of Appendix III/N into any waters or onto any land where it is reasonably likely to enter any water.
  • Not to discharge or deposit a pollutant listed in Part 2 of Appendix III/N into any waters.
  • Premises and locations used for cattle feedlots, composting works, milking sheds, milk processing works, piggeries and saleyards must incorporate a wastewater management plan.
  • Waste generated from cattle feedlots, composting works, milking sheds, milk processing works, piggeries and saleyards must not be deposited into any waters or onto land where it is reasonably likely to enter any waters.
  • The operator of a milking shed must comply with the Code of Practice for Milking Shed Effluent 2003, published by the EPA.
  • Not to discharge waste into a bore, mine shaft, well, infiltration basin or other similar structure or a naturally occurring sinkhole.
  • A person who owns a septic tank must ensure that wastewater from the tank is not discharged into any waters or onto land in a place where it is reasonably likely to enter water. This provision does not apply if the wastewater has been treated to ensure that the water quality objectives for the receiving waters are complied with.
  • A person using wastewater from a septic tank must comply with the South Australian Reclaimed Water Guidelines 1999 published by the EPA. A person using sludge from a septic tank must comply with the South Australian Biosolids Guidelines for the Safe Handling, Reuse or Disposal of Biosolids 1997 published by the EPA.

Wastewater Storage Lagoons

  • Not to construct a wastewater storage lagoon:
  • on a floodplain that is subject to flooding, on average, more than once every hundred years;
  • on the “1956 River Murray Flood Plain”;
  • within 20 metres of a public road or road reserve;
  • within 50 metres of a watercourse;
  • within 200 metres of a residence on land owned by another person;
  • within 500 metres of the high water mark;
  • in a water protection area; or
  • in an area where the base of the lagoon would be below any seasonal water table.
  • A wastewater storage lagoon must be constructed:
  • so that polluted water in the lagoon cannot mix with any underlying seasonal water table; and
  • so as not to be susceptible to inundation or damage from flood waters.
  • In the case of a lagoon used to store wastewaters containing a pollutant listed in Appendix III/L or Appendix III/N of this Summary, other than wastewater resulting from the processing of plant materials, the keeping of animals or consisting only of salt solutions - the lagoon must be constructed of and lined with an impervious material and be equipped with leak collection facilities.
  • In all other cases, lagoons must be constructed with a barrier that minimises, as far as is practicable, leakage from the lagoon.
  • A sufficient number of monitoring bores must be installed and properly placed so that leakage from a wastewater storage lagoon can be readily identified.
  • If wastewater in a lagoon may pose a risk to the health of animals, the lagoon must be appropriately fenced.
  • Wastewater storage lagoons must be maintained in a condition that ensures compliance with the above conditions.
  • Wastewater storage lagoons must not be allowed to fill to a level that is less than 600 millimetres from the lagoon’s maximum carrying capacity.

 

DEFINITIONS

 

Administering Agency
  • the Environment Protection Authority, local councils and other public authorities prescribed as administering agencies under the Environment Protection Regulations.
Pollutant
  • any solid, liquid or gas including waste, smoke, dust fumes and odour. Can also include noise, heat and anything else declared to be a pollutant by the Environment Protection Regulations.
Pollute
  • to discharge, emit, deposit or disturb pollutants, or to cause or fail to prevent the discharge, emission, depositing, disturbance or escape of pollutants.
Pollution
  • has a meaning corresponding to “pollute”.
Waste
  • any solid, liquid or gas that is left over, surplus or an unwanted by-product from any business or domestic activity. Includes wastewater.
Wastewater
  • waste consisting principally of water. Includes wash down water, cooling water, effluent, irrigation runoff and stormwater contaminated with a pollutant listed in Appendix III/N.
Wastewater management system
  • a system designed and operated for the purpose of collecting wastewater and disposing of it on land or storing it and subjecting it to evaporation in a wastewater storage lagoon or some other treatment process.
Wastewater storage lagoon
  • any dam, pond or lagoon constructed and used for the purpose of storing wastewater and subjecting it to evaporation or some other treatment process. It does not include a sediment retention basin.
Waters
  • includes all surface and underground waters including the water in a public stormwater disposal system and irrigation drainage channel. Does not include water within:
  • a water reticulation system;
  • a sewage system or wastewater management system; and
  • a closed tank constructed of or lined with impervious material.

 

ENFORCEMENT
  • Authorised officers may enter and inspect any place or vehicle, take samples, copy or take documents, take photographs and examine and test plant and equipment in the course of ensuring compliance with the Act.
  • The Authority or other administering agency may issue environment protection orders for the purpose of securing compliance with the general environmental duty, to give effect to an environment protection policy, or for the purpose of requiring compliance with the conditions of an authorisation.
  • The Authority or other administering agency may issue an information discovery notice requiring the recipient to disclose information requested for the purpose of enforcing the Act.

 

LICENSING REQUIREMENTS
  • The EPA may grant an exemption to the requirement that the discharge or depositing of pollutants exceeds or further exceeds the maximum water quality criteria or decreases the minimum water quality criteria specified in Appendix III/L.
  • The EPA may grant an exemption to the discharge limits specified in Appendix III/M.
  • The Authority may, by the conditions of environmental authorisation, require the holder of the environmental authorisation to seek the Authority’s approval in relation to construction or alteration of structure, plant and equipment for use of an activity carried on under the environmental authorisation or a change in process under the authorisation.

 

APPEALS AND COMPENSATION
  • Appeals may be made to the Environment, Resources and Development Court against a range of decisions made by the Authority or other administering agency. These include the issuing of an environment protection order, information discovery order or clean-up order.

 

OFFENCES AND PENALTIES
  • Any discharge or deposit of a pollutant in contravention of the Policy represents an environmental harm under the Environment Protection Act. Enforcement action under that Act may therefore be taken in relation to any such contravention. The provisions of the Environment Protection Act relating to water quality are detailed above.
  • Discharging waste into waters and thereby causing:
  • the loss of seagrass or other native aquatic vegetation ;
  • a reduction in numbers of any native species of aquatic animal or insect;
  • an increase in numbers of any non-native species of aquatic animal or insect;
  • a reduction in the numbers of aquatic organisms necessary to a healthy ecosystem;
  • an increase in algal or aquatic plant growth;
  • the water to become toxic to vegetation on land;
  • the water to become harmful or offensive to humans, livestock or native animals; or
  • an increase in turbidity or sediment levels.

Maximum penalty: $30 000.

  • Discharging or depositing pollutants into water or onto land and so exceeding or further exceeding maximum water quality criteria or decreasing minimum water quality criteria, as specified in Appendix III/L. Maximum penalty: $30 000.
  • Exceeding the discharge limits specified in Appendix III/M. Maximum penalty: $30 000.
  • Discharge or depositing a pollutant listed in Part 1 of Appendix III/N into any waters or onto any land where it is reasonably likely to enter any water. Maximum penalty: $30 000.
  • Discharging or depositing a pollutant listed in Part 2 of Appendix III/N into any waters. Maximum penalty: $30 000
  • Operating a cattle feedlot, composting works, milking shed, milk processing works, piggery or saleyard without a wastewater management plan. Maximum penalty: $30 000.
  • Depositing into any waters or onto land where it is reasonably likely to enter any waters any waste generated from cattle feedlots, composting works, milking sheds, milk processing works, piggeries and saleyards. Maximum penalty: $30 000.
  • Discharging waste into a bore, mine shaft, well, infiltration basin or other similar structure or a naturally occurring sinkhole. Maximum penalty: $30 000.
  • Contravening any of the provisions relating to wastewater storage lagoons, described above. Maximum penalty: $30 000.

 

COMMENTS
  • This Policy replaces the Environment Protection (Milking Shed Effluent Management) Policy 1997.

 

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES
  • Environment Protection Authority, Code of Practice for Milking Shed Effluent, 2003.
  • Environment Protection Authority, South Australian Reclaimed Water Guidelines, 1999
  • Environment Protection Authority, South Australian Biosolids Guidelines for the Safe Handling, Reuse or Disposal of Biosolids, 1997.
  • Environment Protection Authority, Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy and Explanatory Report, 2003