The Cooperative Research Centre of Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE), in consultation with the National Remediation Framework Steering Group, has released the National Remediation Framework (Framework).
- The Framework is intended for use by land owners and managers, government agencies and site contamination practitioners as a reference point for best practice methods and approaches to remediation.
- The Framework is not law and has no binding effect on site contamination practitioners or others.
- The Framework complements the National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure (ASC NEPM) and seeks to establish a consistent approach to remediation throughout Australia.
The Framework was designed to facilitate more effective and efficient remediation by codifying existing practices and creating a nationally consistent approach to remediation (in addition to the requirements in the ASC NEPM).
The Framework is intended to be consistent with all jurisdictional requirements regarding remediation and in this respect, is not intended to be prescriptive. The purpose of the Framework includes:
- establishing a nationally consistent approach to:
- remediating and managing contaminated sites; and
- deciding whether remediation is or is not required and remediation objectives; and
- providing practical guidance for anyone carrying out remediation or managing contaminated sites.
The Framework is divided into three key sections:
- Developing a Remediation Action Plan (RAP)
- Implementing a RAP
- Post-remediation Considerations.
We summarise the key aspects of each section below.
National Remediation Framework
1. Developing a RAP
This section provides an overview of key jurisdictional differences regarding when contamination is to be notified and the triggers for remediation.
It also provides a broad overview of the process for developing remediation objectives.
In developing a RAP, the Framework gives brief advice regarding remediation options for different types of contamination (e.g. multiple media or mixed contamination). It also provides technology guides regarding soil and groundwater testing and performing cost-benefit and sustainability analyses for contaminated sites.
2. Implementing a RAP
This part of the Framework is divided into three key sections:
- Stakeholder engagement: which addresses how to best identify and engage with stakeholders and how to avoid common problems with stakeholders (e.g. delays, access to land off-site, potential litigation).
- Health and safety: which addresses controls for specific hazards such as asbestos, noxious odours, working underground or in isolated spaces) and how best to document safety protocols.
- Documentation and record keeping: which addresses commonly included content for RAPs, Environmental Management Plans and health and safety plans. This section directs readers to consult with the relevant State or Territory environment protection authority for jurisdiction-specific record-keeping requirements.
3. Post-remediation considerations
This part of the Framework addresses considerations such as validation and closure of contaminated sites, auditing and long-term monitoring.
Regarding validation and closure, the Framework outlines how to develop a validation plan (including relevant monitoring and sampling, quality assurance and controls measures and implementing contingency plans). It also briefly outlines relevant regulatory approvals for different jurisdictions, including requirements for specific sites such as Commonwealth-owned airport closures.
In relation to auditing, the Framework considers when an audit is to be used (i.e. when one is required by legislation or a regulator, or if a proponent requests an audit). This section also provides guidance on common components of an audit, such as reviewing pre-remediation works and confirming reporting and site closure requirements.
This section also addresses when long-term monitoring will be necessary (such as where it is impractical to completely remove a contaminant, where there is uncertainty around remediation technology, or where onsite treatment of contamination occurs). This section details specific requirements for long-term monitoring of groundwater, soil, soil vapours and sediment.
The Framework is designed to be a central reference point for best practice methods and approaches to remediation. It is intended to assist site contamination practitioners and other stakeholders to navigate remediation issues with greater uniformity and consistency throughout Australia.
The Framework has received strong backing from regulators, industry bodies and other key stakeholders. In particular, CRC CARE states that:
- the Heads of Environment Protection Authorities Australia and New Zealand have endorsed the Framework as best practice; and
- regulators in all jurisdictions agree that the Framework guidelines and technology guides provide useful remediation guidance.
However, the Framework is not law and has no binding effect on site contamination practitioners or others. Instead, the Framework supplements the existing regulatory regime by providing practical guidance on when remediation is required and if so, the most appropriate way to achieve remediation.
The absence of formal adoption by each jurisdiction and any direct impact on policy and decision-making means that we will need to wait and see whether the Framework is effective and adopted in practice by regulators and other stakeholders.
For more information, the Framework can be found here.
By Peter Briggs, Partner, Tom Dougherty, Senior Associate, and Brigitte Rheinberger, Solicitor.
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