Contaminated Sites

A contaminated site is a site at which a hazardous substance occurs at concentrations above background levels and where assessment indicates it poses, or could pose if land use is changed, an immediate or long term risk of harm to human health or the environment.

In the past, hazardous substances have been manufactured, used and disposed of without full knowledge of the potential impacts of these activities on human health and the environment.

Examples of hazardous substances associated with activities known to have caused an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment through land contamination include: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's), organochlorine pesticides (OCP's), heavy metals (for example arsenic, lead, chromium, cadmium and mercury), and hydrocarbons.

In most cases land contamination is the result of past activities which have been poorly managed or where there was a general lack of knowledge of the potential impacts that certain substances may have on human health and the environment.

At present, although hazardous substances are generally managed in a responsible manner, there is still potential for land contamination to occur due to unforeseen circumstances, accidents or criminal acts.

The Contaminated Sites Environmental Protection Policy provides information on how contaminated sites are assessed and managed in the ACT.

Contaminated Sites Environment Protection Policy (November 2009)

Register of Contaminated Sites

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is required to keep a register of contaminated sites under the Environment Protection Act 1997.  Sites are included on the Register when the EPA has:

  • Issued orders relating to the assessment, remediation or ongoing management of a site; or
  • Requested an environmental audit of contaminated land to be undertaken.

For further information about the Register refer to the frequently asked questions.

Information for sites which are known to be, have been or have the potential to be contaminated, and which are not recorded on the Register, is also recorded by the EPA.  This information can be searched by performing a contaminated land search.

For further information about the records held by the EPA and the assessment, management and audit of contaminated sites in the ACT refer to the EPA Contaminated Sites Environmental Protection Policy (PDF 1MB) or contact the EPA by calling 13 22 81.

Amendment to the Assessment of Site Contamination NEPM

The amended National Environment Protection (Assessment of Site Contamination) Measure 1999 (NEPM) was approved by the Standing Council on Environment and Water on 11 April 2013 and came into effect in the ACT on 16 May 2013.  To finalise its implementation in the ACT the Environment Protection Authority is in the process of updating references to the amended NEPM in the Contaminated Sites Environment Protection Policy 2009, as made under the Environment Protection Act 1997.

Details about the amended NEPM and the transitional arrangements for its implementation in the ACT can be found on the Standing Council on Environment and Water website.

ACT Strategic Plan Contaminated Sites Management (1995)

Contaminated Sites Information

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