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Environmental reports: What the regulators want

Environmental reports play an important role in land development decisions and are expected to meet the standards set by the EPA and planning organisations, such as local councils. The standards are in place to ensure sufficient information is available to make appropriate planning and development decisions.

Environmental reports are prepared for phase 1 and 2 site assessments as well as for remediation and validation projects. The reports are often required for development approvals and also used in sale and transfer negotiations. Environmental reports may also be mandated by the EPA.

Report Requirements for a Phase 1

The NSW EPA’s Guidelines for Consultants Reporting on Contaminated Sites sets out the requirements for environmental reports. For a Phase 1 environmental site assessment the report needs to provide an analysis of a site’s history and determine whether any past or present activities have potential to cause contamination. In particular, a Phase 1 environmental site assessment report should:

  • identify all past and present potentially contaminating activities and what type of contamination the activities may have caused
  • discuss the site condition
  • provide a preliminary assessment of site contamination and assess the need for further investigations

The guidelines emphasise the importance of reviewing the site history. Beware of cheap quotes for Phase 1 environmental reports as this usually means that important site checks aren’t being made. Relying on a scant investigation may lead to unexpected finds and poor decisions that lead to environmental or legal risks that end up costing you a lot of money.

Report Requirements for a Phase 2

When it comes to a Phase 2 environmental site assessment, the report needs to provide more comprehensive information on the site investigation and assessment conclusions. Again, the EPA Guidelines list report ‘must haves’. These include:

  • issues raised in the preliminary Phase 1 investigation
  • the type, extent and level of contamination
  • the contaminant dispersal in air, surface water, groundwater, soil and dust
  • the potential effects of contaminants on public health, the environment and building structures
  • off-site impacts (if applicable)
  • the adequacy and completeness of all the information available for making decisions on remediation.

If a Phase 2 site investigation report indicates that unacceptable risks to human health or the environment are present in relation to the proposed land use, then a remedial action plan needs to be prepared and implemented.

If you need advice on environmental site assessments or have been requested to provide an environmental report for a site you want to develop, call or email Ben Pearce for assistance and advice.