The NRF is a lengthy document, and covers many topics that are relevant to the remediation of contaminated land and groundwater. In considering the matters raised in the document, it can be appreciated that the matter is complex, and many considerations apply. Overall, the approach outlined in the document is to provide general guidance on the overall process and matters to be considered. The guidance is not prescriptive, and is more in the nature of outlining the process to be adopted and the considerations rather than providing particular endpoints that must be achieved. This allows a flexible approach to the problem. ALGA considers that this is appropriate. ALGA notes that some in the industry may be disappointed that the NRF does not provide more certainty regarding the requirements for remediation. However, ALGA considers that the nature and complexity of the problem is such that seeking to provide certainty is not practical and may well force inappropriate outcomes.
ALGA considers that the NRF is a valuable document in providing guidance on the requirements for remediating contaminated land and groundwater in Australia. It will assist in achieving a more consistent approach to remediation of contaminated land and groundwater across the various Australian jurisdictions. As such, ALGA sees that the preparation of the document is to be applauded, and ALGA looks forward to its issue in final form in the near future.
Notwithstanding the above general comments, in terms of defining the requirements and outcomes that should be achieved, ALGA considers that the document does fall short in providing guidance on the risk that should be achieved, or how such risk should be determined. The guidance has not been accompanied by a Regulatory Impact Statement that would inform and provide confidence that the implications of the guidance (in terms of cost and benefit) have been properly considered. The guidance on setting site-specific remediation objectives (ie clean up levels) describes considerations, but does not define the risk level – effectively leaving this to be a point of discussion and consideration. This can potentially undermine the whole intent of the guidance – to provide a consistent approach across jurisdictions. The default, but not enunciated, would seem to be to achieve the risk levels that underlie the setting of investigation and screening levels in the NEPM. This is highly conservative and has very significant cost and sustainability implications, and to not be consistent with some other international jurisdictions, such as the USA and Holland. ALGA considers that it is essential that there be further consideration of the cost implications of the guidance and benefits (such as lives saved), and the setting of remediation criteria be based accordingly on policies adopted by Australian Governments more generally across Australia. In recommending this, ALGA is very aware of the emotive issues that attach to “hazardous waste”, but considers that this is an opportunity to adopt a more science and evidence based approach to the area.
The NRF includes a series of modules that have the intention of assisting in the preliminary assessment of remediation technologies. In addition to 13 modules considering specific soil and groundwater technologies, there is a module that outlines the overall decision process for screening feasible options, and a supporting module that considers cost benefit and sustainability. Initial review of the technology modules suggest that they provide an excellent resource, and they are useful in drawing out the key matters that are likely to lead to one technology being applied over another.
It can be expected that, as the NRF is applied, that requirements for revision will become apparent. ALGA considers that it is important that consideration be given to setting up, and making a funding provision, for the regular revision of the document.
ALGA looks forward to further contributions from its members as to issues that need to be addressed, and where improvement is needed. Please feel free forwarding comments on to Rosalind Vrettas firstname.lastname@example.org
How to submit feedback
Click here to access any NRF documents for which you would like to provide feedback.
To submit feedback, please download and complete the NRF final consultation submission form. You are welcome to provide submissions for as many or as few documents as you wish.
Viewing comments from earlier rounds of consultation: If you would like to view previously submitted comments, please email a request to Dr Joytishna Jit, Research Fellow, CRC CARE Best Practice Policy Program, at email@example.com.
The deadline, after which no submissions will be accepted, is 31 March 2019.